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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Made and Broken: USA defeats Guatemala

Photo credit: Getty Images

It was a make or break moment the likes we haven't seen since the 2002 qualifiers. The US national team needed at least a tie versus Guatemala to advance to the final Hexagonal of Concacaf qualifying for Brazil 2014. They made their case and they broke Guatemala by 3-1 in what could easily have been a more dominant score.

As with political campaigns, this game was about coming out punching. Team USA pressed from the first second but a mishap in communication between Cameron and Bocanegra meant that a lofted ball got to Pescadito Ruiz's boots for an easy one-on-one versus Howard for the former MLS player. 0-1 wasn't the way Klinsmann wanted it. But Bocanegra answered back 5 minutes later thanks to a headed assist by Dempsey.

And yes. Dempsey returned tonight with a vengeance after critics categorized him as dull and ineffective at Antigua and Barbuda last Friday. An assist and two goals later and the Tottenham Hotspur ace has once again carried team USA.

There were a few kinks in the defense today, something that Klinsmann will need to continue to work on after so many months of trials. Does Bocanegra retain his spot? Can Tim Ream or Omar Gonzalez break into the fold? As for left back it is Fabian Johnson's spot but in his absence a person like Eric Lichaj should be considered ahead of Edgar Castillo or Michael Parkhurst, simply because of what he did with the position when he had it. Right back is Cherundolo's position and one that can be manned by the likes of Lichaj, Sean Franklin or, if ever, Timmy Chandler.

The offense clicked today for Klinsmann. Possession, passing and calculated moves was what we saw. Graham Zusi has been a revelation and we should expect interest from Europe in the coming months. In the absence of Landon Donovan and Brek Shea he has performed with etiquette and flair. It was a vision of a post-Donovan era, but we will need the all-American for the Hexagonal and, if we're lucky, for the World Cup as well.

Eddie Johnson and Herculez Gomez did their job as strikers but the talent that Jozy Altidore, Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd possess cannot be forgotten. Indeed, we will need all of these players in the ten games reserved for next year's Hexagonal. Somewhere in that time a true stable lineup will finally be drawn by the US coach and some semblance of continuity can finally reign over the national team. This is sorely needed and perhaps the root of some of the more deplorable games in the qualification semifinals we just experienced.

Player ratings:
Howard................6.5
Cherundolo.............7
Bocanegra.............6.5
Cameron...............5
Parkhurst...............6
Zusi........................7
Dempsey...............8
M. Bradley.............7.5
Johnson.................6
Gomez...................6
D. Williams............5.5

2 comments:

Alastair McCandless said...

Are the helter skelter lineups a function of injuries or Klinsmann not taking the competition in the early qualifying rounds very seriously?

rjmera said...

Some were injuries. The rest are Klinsi being Klinsi. He took Oliver Kahn off as starter for Germany in 2006 and went with Lehman, so he's not afraid to shake things up.