Disaster scenarios became very realistic for the United States men's national team after a disastrous result on Friday, but they've managed to avert all of them. Amidst a ton of pressure, Jurgen Klinsmann and his team turned around their defeat in Guatemala City by beating the Guatemalans at home on Tuesday and by a comfortable 4-0 score.
The Americans got on the board early, with the team's leading scorer Clint Dempsey firing them ahead. A long ball from Geoff Cameron toward Gyasi Zardes didn't exactly find its intended target, but Zardes did manage to occupy two defenders. When the ball bounced to Dempsey, he was completely unmarked and had an easy finish.
Cameron got on the scoresheet himself with a headed goal in the 35th minute. Bobby Wood drew a free kick, which was perfectly taken by Michael Bradley, who found Cameron's head.
Guatemala tried to change the game by bringing veterans Marco Pappa and Carlos Ruiz off the bench to start the second half, but they never got to make an impact. Just 20 seconds into the half, a DeAndre Yedlin pass bounced off Zardes and fell to Graham Zusi, who finished off the chance to seal the points for the Americans.
In the 81st minute, the U.S. did something just as important as winning — they cap-tied Christian Pulisic. The 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund starlet, who can no longer represent Croatia at international level, became the youngest player to ever play in a World Cup qualifier for the USMNT.
Substitute Ethan Finlay deserved a goal in the stadium he plays his club soccer in when he found the back of the net 85 minutes in, but was incorrectly called offside. The U.S. did add a fourth goal, though, with Dempsey setting up Jozy Altidore for an exclamation point in the 88th minute.
With this win, the USMNT is now second in their group on seven points. Trinidad and Tobago leads with 10, while Guatemala has six. St. Vincent and the Grenadines have zero, and are now eliminated from World Cup contention. The U.S. plays T&T and SVG this September to close out this round of qualifying.
United States: Guzan, Castillo, Cameron, Birnbaum, Yedlin, Beckerman, Bradley, Zusi (Pulisic 81'), Wood (Altidore 66'), Dempsey, Zardes (Finlay 71')
Goals: Dempsey (12'), Cameron (35'), Zusi (46'), Altidore (88')
Guatemala: Motta, Jimenez, Hernandez, Castrillo, Morales, Marquez, Contreras, Icute, Cincotta (Pappa 46'), Savaria, Tinoco (Ruiz 46')
1. Using players in their preferred positions helps — On Monday, Jurgen Klinsmann denied allegations that he plays players outside of their preferred positions. Then he picked a lineup where Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin and Michael Bradley were actually in their preferred positions. This resulted in a much better team performance from the Americans, though it still wasn't particularly impressive, despite the score.
2. Y'all, Guatemala is really bad — The Americans' goals did not come from pretty passing moves or incredible individual plays. Instead, they came from truly comical defending. The opening goal, in particular, was awful — it featured two defenders falling over Gyasi Zardes while forgetting that Clint Dempsey existed. On the second, Geoff Cameron lost his marker on a set piece. The third came 20 seconds into the second half. It's incredible that the USMNT was so thoroughly beaten by this team on Friday.
3. This probably keeps Jurgen Klinsmann employed — While there was nothing particularly impressive about Tuesday's performance, Klinsmann's team got the result they needed. The scoreboard read 4-0 at the end of the match. That's going to be good enough to keep him in his job through Copa America, whether you hate him or not. It would be truly shocking to see Sunil Gulati get rid of Klinsmann before then.