The USA's World Cup semifinal qualifying round victory Wednesday will take no awards for beauty, but the result and the three points will more than compensate for the beautiful game's absence in Guatemala City. All the talk post-game was about hard work and cohesiveness.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy one way or another," said captain and goalscorer Carlos Bocanegra. "We just stuck together. It was a great team effort. The forwards did a great job of chasing down, and the midfield held strong, and the defense cleaned it up after that. Timmy [Howard] made a few big saves for us, which you need in a qualifier."
Ever since Bob Bradley took over as coach, the U.S. team has rarely thrilled spectators, especially on the road, but aside from last year's Copa America tournament it has been churning out results under challenging circumstances. "Starting back in the Gold Cup when we got together," said Bocanegra, "it was a tough grind, and we came back to beat Mexico in the final. That showed character. Tonight showed that we fight for each other and have great team spirit."
Eddie Lewis pointed out that "even though everyone assumes we are the strongest team in the group, we haven't won here in 20 years and there's a reason for that. It was a quick reminder to everybody that these qualifiers are tough. They are hard games. It was certainly a testament to the players' efforts to get the result tonight."