Predictably, we heard -- after the tie against a team that has never reached the World Cup -- that picking up a point on the road is a good result. There's truth to that, but I imagine many U.S. fans woke up on Wednesday with a $30 hangover, wishing they'd waited to watch the very few highlights of the Guatemala-USA game on Internet videoinstead of shelling out for the pay-per-view.
Fear not, the USA starting its World Cup qualifying campaign with a couple of unimpressive performances doesn't portend much.
The qualifying campaign for the best U.S. performance at a World Cup, when it reached the quarterfinals in 2002, started with a 1-1 tie in Guatemala and a 2-1 loss at Costa Rica -- and Coach Bruce Arena’s team won just half of its 16 games in qualifying.
Now we have Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm and after nearly a year in charge he’s finally coached his first two official games. A 3-1 win over Antigua & Barbuda and Tuesday’s 1-1 tie at Guatemala.
Neither performance concerns me much when it comes to U.S. prospects of qualifying for the World Cup. A&B ended up tying Jamaica, 0-0, on Tuesday, reminding us how easy it is for the USA to advance – because its opponents always take enough points from each other to allow the USA to waltz through on home wins.
The USA will easily reach the Hexagonal, the final round, from which three of the six teams qualify for the World Cup and the fourth-place earns an intra-regional playoff to reach Brazil 2014.
Last time, though, under Coach Bob Bradley, the USA started the semifinal round with a 1-0 win at Guatemala. So we’re still waiting for signs that the new coach is taking the team to a higher level than his predecessors.
The best we’ve seen so far under Klinsmann has been a 1-0 friendly win at Italy, thanks to a goal by Clint Dempsey. There was also the 5-1 friendly win over woeful Scotland that came thanks to a hat trick by Landon Donovan and a super strike from another veteran, Michael Bradley.
Klinsmann, like his predecessors, depends on the U.S. talent available and we’ve now had a year to see that it’s hardly different than what Bob Bradley and Arena had at their disposal. Who can name players Klinsmann has neglected who are better than those he's fielded?
The Klinsmann results and the quality of soccer that his team plays will continue to resemble what we've seen for nearly two decades until the country produces more players like Dempsey, whose jukes made two defenders stumble before he hammered home the U.S. goal against Guatemala.
Thanks to Dempsey – playing under his third national team coach – those fans who paid $30 got some of their money's worth.