By Ridge Mahoney
A younger, less experienced U.S. team than the one that beat Ecuador, 3-1,
Sunday battered futilely against a Guatemalan wall and came away with a 0-0 draw
at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.
Alternately forging up the flanks and hitting long balls into the heart of the
Guatemalan defense, the U.S. carved out only a few solid chances despite its
large advantage in possession.
Landon Donovan darted about in search of space but often ran into
clusters of opponents who scraped the ball away, and the snake-bitten Eddie
Johnson labored through his 12th straight game without scoring a goal.
Crosses were either too deep or too high and the knockdowns from those long
balls never dropped into a spot for a clean strike at goal.
Over-dribbling betrayed the U.S. several times and there wasn't enough movement
when the Americans tried to one-touch their way through congested spaces.
Justin Mapp, playing on the left flank, ran at the Guatemalan defense
repeatedly. One run ended with a cut-back ball that Johnson shot against
defender Henry Medina, another time he ran onto a nice ball from Clint
Dempsey and shot just wide from a sharp angle.
Mapp was much more dangerous than Dempsey, who did put a point-blank header on
goal that was saved but usually ran aground when he took the ball inside.
Right back Frankie Simek overlapped several times but only once could
launch a dangerous cross.
Left back Jonathan Spector pushed forward smartly to provide Mapp with
support but Simek and Dempsey were rarely on the same page.
Johnson had little success contesting high balls and didn't get any favors from
Mexican referee Benito Archundia. He shot low on his one clear chance and
keeper Ricardo Tregueno got down well to save.
Central midfielders Michael Bradley and Benny Feilhaber worked
well together keeping possession and finding teammates with passes, and the
defense for the most part contained Carlos Ruiz and his teammates.
Ruiz did escape the marking of Jimmy Conrad on a free kick to slash a
shot that bounced over the bar, and he also won a duel with Conrad on the edge
of the penalty area but couldn't get a shot on goal.
Guatemala rarely tested his central partner, Jay DeMerit, who played
solidly and confidently on his U.S. debut.
A disappointingly small crowd of 10,932 witnessed a result of the same ilk.