It would be a wrong to call the USA's match against Guatemala a must-win game. The USA could still advance in World Cup 2018 qualifying without a win. But after Friday's debacle in Guatemala City,
anything but a win will trigger alarm bells that will be hard to turn off.
“There’s a sense of urgency tomorrow night because we need three points now,” U.S. head coach
said at Monday's press conference. “We need to win this game.”
With that in mind, here are some keys to the game ... 1. The USA must
start out well.
Everything about the USA's start to the away leg of its series against Guatemala it got wrong, and it never recovered as it lost, 2-0. For its own confidence, the USA
will need to start out well. Boosting that confidence is the USA's home record in World Cup qualifying: unbeaten in its last 28 games (26-0-2 record) and all eight games in Columbus (6-0-2).
“Certainly Columbus, when you look back at the history, there’s something special here,” said captain Michael Bradley
. “It’s a bit of mystique. Teams come here
and know a little bit about that history and look at our record when we played here and they know they’re going to be in for a tough night.” 2. Klinsmann must get his
Bradley's task will be to organize the midfield that took almost an hour to settle down on Friday night in Guatemala City. By then, Jurgen Klinsmann
, Darlington Nagbe
replaced Diskerud, and Bradley's role was reversed, playing behind Nagbe instead of in front of Diskerud. With Jermaine Jones
can continue with the Bradley-Nagbe pairing. His other option is to start veteran Kyle Beckerman
at holding midfielder.
That placing of Diskerud in a role he doesn't usually play
was one of several head-scratching moves made by Klinsmann, who pushed back from criticism he was using players out of position. If anything, the U.S. coach said he has many players he can use at
"I know that Geoff Cameron
can play right back and center back," he said. "I know that [DeAndre] Yedlin
can play right winger and right back. This is a
good thing for us to have because we try to put the pieces together the best way possible in order for them to fit. Having that option with certain players -- Fabian Johnson
as a fullback or as
a midfielder, which he does the same thing in transitioning in either position with his club team -- is good for us.” 3. USA must take its chances.
The USA did
not lack for chances against Guatemala on Friday night. Clint Dempsey
, who entered the game tied with Landon Donovan
for the U.S. record with 13 goals in World Cup qualifying, did
everything but score. Alejandro Bedoya
(injured early in the game and questionable for Tuesday's game) and Jozy Altidore
also had good chances that were stopped by Guatemalan keeper
Klinsmann will have to decide whether to start Bobby Wood
up front again or start Altidore, who is returning from a hamstring injury suffered in preseason. Wood
is the hottest American striker, having a record-setting season in Germany. He was a menace for the first hour or so but didn't create any chances for himself.