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The United States is in pole position to make the hexagonal from their World Cup qualifying third-round group, but they will still be disappointed to walk away from Guatemala with just a draw. The USMNT held a lead for the majority of the second half, but had to settle for a 1-1 draw thanks to a brilliant free kick equalizer from Marco Pappa.
Clint Dempsey scored the United States' goal in the 40th minute, putting the finishing touch on the team's only truly great attacking move in the first half. Fabian Johnson was the architect, providing the assist with a great run up the left flank, then a pass to the feet of Dempsey. He stepped past a defender and placed a low shot into the back of the net at the far post, giving the United States a lead at the end of a poorly played first half.
The United States didn't play much better in the second half, though they did have one good goal disallowed. In the 76th minute, Maurice Edu was hacked down on the edge of the penalty area, but the ball fell to substitute Jozy Altidore, who scored. Unfortunately for him and the USMNT, the goal was called back on a whistle. Inexplicably, the referee failed to play advantage and wiped out the goal.
That would prove to be a key decision seven minutes later, when Pappa netted the equalizer. His free kick came from 25 yards out and completely fooled Tim Howard, who was left standing still as the shot hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced into the goal.
Howard was tested much more than anyone could have expected, and even though the United States had a goal wiped out by a bad call, Guatemala should have scored two or three times before Altidore's disallowed goal. Howard made a number of excellent saves, with his biggest moment coming in the 72nd minute. He made a great save on a set piece, and Carlos Ruiz sent a rebound attempt miles over the crossbar when it would have been easier to hit the target.
Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT won't be very pleased with their play, and there will be plenty for the team to work on when they get back together at the end of the summer, but a draw in Guatemala isn't an awful result, and they're still heavy favorites to win the group and comfortably advance to the hexagonal round of qualifying.
The United States did not really deserve to be ahead after 83 poorly played minutes and now they aren't thanks to Marco Pappa. The Guatemalan hit an absolutely gorgeous free kick up and over the U.S. wall, then dipped it under the bar to beat a helpless Tim Howard. The crowd in Guatemala City exploded and the match was level at 1-1.
The foul was one of many that the U.S. has given away and Guatemala finally took advantage. The free kick was from a tick outside of 20 yards and it was a gem. Pappa should be on every highlight video for that one because it was as well hit as it could have been.
Meanwhile, the U.S. can't feel too hard done. Guatemala has had more chances, has looked more confident and has been the all-around better side. For Guatemala to lose would have been harsh and now they aren't. With seven minutes plus extra time to go now, the U.S. needs to regroup because if any team is going to score a winner it looks like it would be Guatemala.
The United States has to be irate right now because they just scored to go up 2-0 on Guatemala, but the referee waved it off. Instead of counting Jozy Altidore's goal, he whistled for a foul a half-second earlier, apparently unaware of this thing called "advantage."
It was a pretty textbook play. The ball was at the top of the box on Clint Dempsey's foot when he was fouled. The ball squirted free right to Altidore, who was in all alone on goal. He slide the ball into the side netting and goal, right! Wrong. The referee, fixated on the foul blew the whistle, awarded a free kick and did not award the goal. It was exactly why advantage exists, yet the referee decided not to play it for reasons only he knows.
If Guatemala scores, this one is going to sting for the U.S. They should be up 2-0 and instead are just up 1-0.
There is only one thing that matters in World Cup qualifying -- the result. The United States may have been poor all match and an argument can easily be made that Guatemala has been better, but they are just 15 minutes away from three points and in qualifying that is all that matters.
Guatemala is really pouring the pressure on now. They have had the bulk of the chances and have had good ones at that. They just missed the post on several occasions and Marco Pappa forced Tim Howard into a brilliant save to keep this one level. It's been all Guatemala, but zero goals and that is all that matters.
There are 15 minutes left for the U.S. to hold on. They don't need to be good and they don't need to impress. They just need to hold on.
The U.S. defense got undressed yet again and Marco Pappa took advantage. He came flying in and knocked a shot at goal that looked like a sure equalizer, but Howard made a brilliant save to keep the ball out. Carlos Ruiz followed by getting to the rebound, but he managed to sky it well over the goal under no pressure. The Americans breathed easily again, knowing that Howard and some horrible finishing by Ruiz was all that kept them in front.
This is hardly the first time Howard has saved the U.S. He has made a career of saving his team time and time again, especially on the road in CONCACAF and he has done it again.
Herculez Gomez has been largely invisible for 64 minutes, which was all Jurgen Klinsmann apparently had to see. Gomez's day is done and Jozy Altidore is on, giving the United States the same lone striker formation that they have had all match, but now a more physical striker as opposed to the quicker, more active Gomez.
For Altidore this is a chance to re-establish himself as the best striker in the U.S. pool. He has been struggling to get fit for the last three weeks and hasn't started for the U.S. as a result. Meanwhile, Gomez has played well, becoming the top striker option. That means Altidore has been pushed aside. A good final 26 minutes might push him back atop the U.S. striker pool.
Guatemala is going all-in at halftime, making all three of their substitutions and leaving them without any more for the rest of the match. Manuel Leon came on for Jose Manuel Contreras, Marco Pappa entered for Carlos Figueroa and Dwight Pezzarossi also came into the match, replacing Mario Rodriguez.
The big move is obviously bringing in Pappa. He is one of, if not the best Guatemalan players and his absence from the starting lineup was puzzling. He is on now, though, and sure to challenge a United States defense that was shaky in the first half. With Steve Cherundolo struggling in the first half, Pappa is sure to go right at him with every opportunity.
The danger here for Guatemala is if someone gets hurt. They are out of subs and would then have to play down a man the rest of the way.
Clarence Goodson's day lasted only 45 minutes. He picked up a yellow card, committed a couple other fouls and was tempting the referee to send him off so Jurgen Klinsmann didn't have much of a choice but to take him off at halftime. Geoff Cameron is on for him, which is a real test for the inexperienced center back who isn't always the most disciplined.
Cameron will really be tested now. He has never been in a match of this magnitude and he has never had to deal with the shaky CONCACAF refereeing in a qualifier. With Carlos Ruiz causing havoc for the U.S. defense, a lot is being asked of Cameron and he will have to be strong.
With Cameron coming on for Goodson and not Oguchi Onyewu, it might be time to wave goodbye to Gooch. The center back has been awful in his last few matches for the United States and despite having the experience advantage over Cameron, Klinsmann has turned to Cameron in the hostile road atmosphere.
Update: USA 1-1 Guatemala, Final Score
Not much happened in the first half of the World Cup qualifying match between the United States and Guatemala, but the USMNT heads into the locker room with a lead thanks to one individual moment of brilliance. With a goal that moved him past Joe-Max Moore on the USMNT's all-time scoring list, Clint Dempsey has the United States up 1-0 after one half in Guatemala City.
Dempsey's goal came in the 40th minute, and it was a beauty. Fabian Johnson's assist was just as impressive as the goal, as the left back made a great run down the left flank before beating a defender and playing a perfect pass to Dempsey's feet. He then side-stepped Guatemala defender Carlos Gallardo before cutting the ball back across his body and into the back of the net from 15 yards out.
The usual shenanigans that plague the United States and other big teams away in CONCACAF like poor pitch conditions, bad officiating and fans throwing things onto the field have not plagued this match thus far. That's the good news. The bad news is that, if those things aren't problems, the United States should probably be playing much better football than they are. Other than the goal, Guatemala goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez has only been seriously tested on one other occasion.
On the other end, Tim Howard has had to make a couple of saves, but the back line is doing their part. Clarence Goodson and Carlos Bocanegra look like they have a good understanding with each other in the back, though Goodson has been a bit too aggressive. He already has a yellow card, and was playing like a player asking for a sending off between the time he received it in the 23rd minute and the end of the first half.
Even though the United States struggled going forward for most of the first half, they did have the majority of the possession in a road game against respectable opposition, which is to be expected for a three-man midfield playing with Jurgen Klinsmann's possession-based tactics.
The one good attacking move from the United States resulted in a goal and was a thing of beauty, so there's nothing to be unhappy about if you're a fan of the USMNT. They could have played better in the first half, but they've done their jobs thus far.
Carlos Ruiz may be old and he may dive a lot and he may be incredibly hated by every fan base in CONCACAF, but he is still pretty good. He had a hard free kick earlier in the game that stung the palms of Tim Howard and now, just minutes after Clint Dempsey put the United States in front, Ruiz came agonizingly close to equalizing for Guatemala.
The shaky U.S. defense came undone and Ruiz got the ball in the box. He turned and found the goal, but his shot curled just wide of the post. Tim Howard did well to come off his line and cut off the angle, but the U.S. have to feel lucky that they are not behind and they will have to get it together in defense or Ruiz will beat them eventually.
The United States doesn't have to be good, they have Clint Dempsey. A terrible opening for the U.S. in Guatemala was wiped out by the Dempsey, who might as well wear a Superman cape from now on. The Americans' best player showed why he is the best player in the country with a great goal for the U.S., putting them in front of Guatemala, 1-0, just before halftime.
The goal started with Fabian Johnson, who made a long mazing run down the left before cutting in. He drew the defense before passing for Dempsey who gathered the ball just inside the box. He danced around one man with a gorgeous touch then got by another, leaving them both on the ground. He found himself staring at just the goal and Dempsey wasn't going to miss from there. He slid the ball past the goalkeeper and the U.S. was up a goal.
Johnson's run and Dempsey's goal was the first real attack of the match for the U.S., who have been poor. But poor or not, they are up 1-0 thanks to their best player who came through again.
Minutes after Michael Bradley got the first shot on goal for the United States, Guatemala got one of their own and it was a dangerous one. Carlos Ruiz drew a penalty for a marginal foul, but the flopping fish is the champion at diving to draw fouls and that is what he did. He then took the free kick from 25 yards and it was a rocket, right on goal. It never really bothered Tim Howard, who handled the shot with ease, but it was a hard shot and the best chance of the game.
The foul was against Clarence Goodson, who will have to be careful. He already has a yellow card and picked up two subsequent fouls. Right now, he's tempting the referee to send him off and away in CONCACAF, that is as dumb a thing that a player can do.
There has been a shot! A real, god to honest shot! And it came from the United States! This match is getting crazy now!
Michael Bradley gathered the ball 25 yards from goal, took a touch then blasted a half-volley at goal. It was looping, it wasn't particularly dangerous and it was never going to beat the goalkeeper, but it was a shot and that is progress.
What is also progress is that the shot came after a couple completed passes and from some space in the center. Neither of those things were happening earlier in the match so the U.S. is getting better. It is not good, but there was passing, space and a shot. Things are getting better.
The first yellow card of that match goes to ... Clarence Goodson! All of you who had Goodson in your pool, please come forward and collect your prize.
In mild seriousness, besides your everyday yellow counting as action in this bore of a match, this has actual importance. Goodson is not always the quickest and could be susceptible to picking up another card, putting the Americans down a man. Playing away in CONCACAF, you do not want to pick up a yellow card and be at the mercy of referees who aren't particularly good. They will give away yellow cards just because and now Goodson can be off because the referee just decided to.
Elsewhere in the match, nothing. There is nothing happening.
Clint Dempsey made a backheel pass. That counts as action in this match. We're coming up on 25 minutes. That is all.
Neither the United States nor Guatemala have looked good in the early going and that is just fine for the Guatemalans. As the major underdog who would be happy with just a point, the uglier things are they better they are for Guatemala.
Guatemala are going in hard on tackles and are looking to mix it up, sticking with the uglier the better plan. The U.S. hasn't been able to get free and create much of anything from it. They haven't even controlled possession as well as they hoped they would.
In fact, the best chance of the game so far goes to Guatemala. A long ball was chested down for Carlos Ruiz, whose shot flew well over the bar, but it was the best either team has had so far. Yeah, it's been that ugly.
Whether most of America can watch or not, the United States and Guatemala are underway from Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City. The conditions down there are much better than they were when the U.S. was there last four years ago. Whereas that match was played on a pitch soaked by rain and with high grass intended to make things tough on the U.S., this time the pitch is more reasonable. They also improved the lighting there so high five to all of you who can actually watch the match.
The crowd isn't quite as lively as it has been in the past down in Guatemala so this is a nice intro to road qualifying for the U.S. Things could be much worse all the way around.
The left back lives! Fabian Johnson, who was a doubt for the match after missing the last two with a calf strain, is healthy and started for the United States in their World Cup qualifier against Guatemala. With Edgar Castillo already out, getting Johnson back healthy was crucial for the U.S. or they wouldn't have had anyone to play left back.
Otherwise, this is the lineup one would expect from the U.S. Jose Francisco Torres' injury took the mystery out of the midfield and left only three options for three spots and Herculez Gomez was always going to start over the unfit Jozy Altidore considering the form he has been in.
It's 4-3-2-1 with pressure high. The real question is whether they know how to break down a Guatemala team that will be committed to defending. At the back, all should be fine because Guatemala doesn't have much in the attack and that is doubly true considering Marco Pappa isn't starting. It's just a matter of whether the U.S. has what it takes up top.
Guatemala (4-4-2): Ricardo Jerez; Elias Vasquez, Erwin Morales, Luis Rodriguez, Carlos Gallardo; Wilfred Velasquez, Jose Manuel Contreras, Marvin Avila, Carlos Figueroa; Mario Rodriguez, Carlos Ruiz
United States fans are eagerly awaiting the team's qualifier at Guatemala tonight (assuming they can watch it), but few know much about Guatemala. The Guatemalans didn't make it to the final round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and went out relatively early in a largely forgettable 2011 Gold Cup. They haven't played in matches that many Americans have watched since 2008, and that date's only if you intently watched the third round of World Cup qualifying.
We do know that three Guatemalan players have been suspended for the match due to match-fixing allegations, but that is about it. They are not and have never been a particularly technical team, and have never had any hesitation of going in on a hard tackle, legal or not. Like most teams that play the U.S., Guatemala will put men behind the ball and try to defend, so what is the U.S. to do to pressure Guatemala? Chest Rockwell from Black and Red United emphasizes the need for high pressure.
Tactically, the Yanks should look to press high and force the wingbacks to play as fullbacks. Not only will this underline Guatemala's issues with first touch -- the center backs and defensive midfielders are not going to be mistaken for skillful technicians any time soon -- but it will also force Guatemala to stay in the 5-4-1 at all times. If the wingbacks can't join the midfield, then the attacking pair of midfielders will have fewer chances to jump forward and help [Carlos] Ruiz. That will strand Ruiz up front by himself, and his lack of mobility would likely render him helpless in such a situation.
Ruiz will flop around, but keep him out the match and Guatemala will be out of options. If the high pressure can create a chance or two for the Americans, too, that will just be a bonus.
It has been four years since the United States went down to Guatemala City for a World Cup qualifier. That will chance tonight when they take on Guatemala City in the the third round of qualifying, which is the same round they were in when they last were there.
The U.S. defeated Guatemala, 1-0, last time they went to Estadio Mateo Flores, but it was not an easy match. The pitch was a mess, Guatemala was hardly sporting and the crowd was deafening. Only a Carlos Bocanegra header allowed the Americans to get out with three points.
Tonight the U.S. will face much of the same. The crowd will be just as wild, the pitch will be just as bad and Guatemala will not hesitate to fly into a tackle. They could be bloodied, but they cannot be beaten. With Guatemala struggling, they need to get three points however it takes. If that means getting the piss beaten out of you while the ref looks the other way then managing a header to squeak out a win, so be it.
The United States has played plenty at home and they have played on the road too, at Italy, France and Belgium in the last year. They were as good of tests as the U.S. could get in friendlies, but they were just that -- friendlies. The opposing team wasn't all ratcheted up and neither was the U.S. Most importantly, the crowd and atmosphere wasn't anything close to what they will see in qualifiers.
On Tuesday, the Americans will get their first taste of road qualifying in three years when they play Guatemala. Several of their players have never played in a road qualifier and manager Jurgen Klinsmann has never been a part of a road CONCACAF qualifier as a player or manager.
That last part is important. It is a road qualifier in CONCACAF that matters. While playing away to France or England or even Poland can be tough, it doesn't match what it is like playing away to many of the countries in CONCACAF.
The crowds throughout Central America are hostile, packing stadiums beyond capacity and leave police without much recourse of things being thrown on the pitch. Players are woken up at all hours of the night by calls to the hotel room by opposing fans and fire alarms are pulled. The pitches are usually in terrible shape and referees have no interest in helping out the visitors. Heavy tackles are often unpunished and little knicks on the home team can result in red cards.
It is a completely different world away in CONCACAF. That, just as much as the opposing team, is what the U.S. is facing tonight.
There has been plenty attention paid to the match-fixing scandal in Italy, but very little to the match-fixing scandal going down in Guatemala right now. Yeah, match-fixing even makes it across the pond to Central America, which surprises no one.
The current scandal in Guatemala leaves their national team without three of their regulars - Gustavo Cabrera, Yoni Flores and Guillermo Ramirez. Cabrera and Ramirez are among the most senior members of the team, with 100 and 102 caps apiece, with both serving as captain at one point. Now neither will be available until FIFA's investigation is complete.
Once FIFA announced their investigation, the Guatemalan Football Federation suspended the trio indefinitely. They missed the team's 2-1 loss to Jamaica on Friday and will miss their match against the United States on Tuesday. While the trio are aging and are not the players they once were, they did bring a great deal of experience and leadership that the team will surely mis in a match that they are desperate for a result in.
The three are being investigated for potential match-fixing in four matches, three for country and one for club. National team matches against Costa Rica, South Africa and Venezuela are being looked at, as is a CONCACAF Champions League clash between Guatemalan club Municipal and Mexican club Santos Laguna.
It is time for the United States' first major test of the Jurgen Klinsmann era. Sure, they played some better teams than Guatemala - some much, much better teams - but this is the first time they have played someone mildly respectable in a match that matters. This is a World Cup qualifier and a road one at that, the first time that the team will go on the road in a qualifier under Klinsmann.
This a massive match for the U.S. in their quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. The Americans did pick up three points against Antigua and Barbuda, but if they lost to Guatemala then they are putting a lot of pressure on themselves to beat Jamaica at home and get a result on the road. Those are two results they should get, but they don't want to have to get them. If they lose to Guatemala then they will have to get them or risk not making the final round of qualifying for the World Cup.
Unfortunately for U.S. fans, many will not get to watch this match. Per CONCACAF rules, the home country holds the TV rights for the match and Guatemala sold the rights to a company that will show it on pay-per view only in the U.S. Unless you live near a bar that was willing to pay the $750 to purchase the match or you want to pay $30 to watch it at home, you are out of luck.
Whether people at home are watching or not, the U.S. needs a good result. That means a full three points, by any score, any way.
Guatemala vs. United States
Match Date/Time: Tuesday, June 12, 10:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Estadio Mateo Flores, Guatemala City, Guatemala
TV: Pay-per view (List of bars showing the match)
Jurgen Klinsmann's worst nightmare might be coming true. According to Fox Soccer, Fabian Johnson is questionable for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier at Guatemala and his back up Edgar Castillo is out, possibly leaving the United States without a healthy left back for the match.
Johnson emerged as the undisputed top left back for the U.S. after moving to the position for his club Hoffenheim in the second half of the season then playing excellent in the Americans' friendlies against Scotland and Brazil. He picked up a calf injury before last Sunday's friendly against Canada, though, and missed that match and the Americans' first qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda on Friday. Now his status for Tuesday is in doubt too.
If Johnson cannot play, Klinsmann would have turned to Castillo to play left back, but he is out. He injured his hamstring in training before the Antigua and Barbuda match an will not play against Guatemala.
Klinsmann was without both Johnson and Castillo against Antigua and Barbuda and tapped Jose Francisco to Torres to play left back, but after a forgettable start to the match, he was also injured and will not play in Guatemala. That leaves Klinsmann in a bind.
Carlos Bocanegra is an option to play left back, as he has done many times in the past, but Klinsmann may hesitate to move his captain out of the center of defense, where he is the back line's leader. Putting Bocanegra wide would mean that either Oguchi Onyewu or Geoff Cameron has to play centrally with Clarence Goodson, but Onyewu has been an unmitigated disaster of late and Cameron has minimal experience.
The other option for Klinsmann would be to put Cameron or Michael Parkhurst out on the left. Cameron has zero experience on the left and while Parhurst has played there on occasion at the club level, he hasn't done so at the international level.
The U.S. will be praying that Johnson is ready to go on Tuesday because if he can't then there is not a good option out there. And against Jairo Arreola, the U.S. will need someone assured on the left or the Guatemala winger can do some real damage.
The U.S. was very poor against Antigua and Barbuda, something they can't afford to be away to Guatemala.
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