USA-Guatemala: Win needed to avert crisis

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 Jurgen Klinsmann 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 lineup right.

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 had pulled Mix Diskerud, Darlington Nagbe replaced Diskerud, and Bradley's role was reversed, playing behind Nagbe instead of in front of Diskerud. With Jermaine Jones suspended, Klinsmann 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 multiple positions.

"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 Paulo Motta.

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.
18 comments about "USA-Guatemala: Win needed to avert crisis".
  1. Paul Estrada, March 29, 2016 at 1 a.m.

    Okay did I get this right. The USA is 26-0-2 in their last 28 qualifying matches on US soil, but somehow the place where we actually had 2 draws is "magical"? That means pretty much anywhere else in the US, we have won *every* game. Okay.

  2. Pasco Struhs replied, March 29, 2016 at 9:52 a.m.

    Ha! Good catch.

  3. Steve Unger, March 29, 2016 at 8:03 a.m.

    Did anybody else see what I saw? Tim Howard was slow in moving low to his left on a reaction save ... then did not come out quickly enough on the goal kick breakaway. Both are signs of an aging keeper ... (been there, done that) compare and contrast to the guy in the other net who won the game .... Steve Unger

  4. Wooden Ships replied, March 29, 2016 at 8:40 a.m.

    I think we will see Guzan tonight and upon seeing the replays I agree with you Steve. Again, again, again we will see a different line up. I'll take a 4-1-3-2 or a 3-5-2. Bradley, because JK won't sit him, needs to sit in front of the center backs, Nagbe and Nyguen creating. Wood and Pulusic up top. We will however see JA and Deuce up top, with KB and MB up the middle and we will bully our way to goal or long ball-restart hopes. It will be our normal approach.

  5. David Mont, March 29, 2016 at 10:07 a.m.

    The crisis is already here, and has been with us for a long time. The win is needed to avert the firing of JK. Of course, the latter might be a good thing.

  6. Bret Newman, March 29, 2016 at 10:21 a.m.

    I heard JK might put Wood at goalkeeper tonight. He's been experimenting with him in that position in practice games. :)

  7. Daniel Clifton, March 29, 2016 at 10:26 a.m.

    Why is it I feel disaster is on the horizon?

  8. Andrew Kear replied, March 29, 2016 at 11:55 a.m.

    Disaster is always around the corner with Klinsmann.

  9. Andrew Kear, March 29, 2016 at 11:41 a.m.

    The three defenders tonight will be a circus clown, lawn chair, and 60 year old USMNT veteran Ricky Davis.

  10. John Soares, March 29, 2016 at 12:17 p.m.

    ...AND if we win tonight. (I think we will) All will be fine and JK is once again a winner and a great coach, at least for some. The slow torture for fans continues.

  11. David Mont replied, March 29, 2016 at 3:28 p.m.

    Exactly. Just like there was a huge sigh of relief at the end of last year after a scoreless draw with this world power Trinidad and Tobago.

  12. Daniel Clifton replied, March 29, 2016 at 3:54 p.m.

    This is true. A win leads to more slow torture.

  13. Ric Fonseca, March 29, 2016 at 2:29 p.m.

    It is a good thing to question why in hades JK always starts Bradley! Is it 'cause he told his father that to make amends for his firing he'd start little Bradley? And why in hades is Jazzy Altidore on the team since the author keeps on reminding us that he's coming off a hamstring injury? Hey, doesn't the medidal squad get him well and not release him to o\play crucial matches until he's completely recovered?

  14. Paul Estrada replied, March 29, 2016 at 2:51 p.m.

    Bradley is one of our best players. When he is on his game, he is often simply the best player on the field for both teams. But he has to have the right pairing in the middle. He is not an attacking midfielder.

  15. David Mont replied, March 29, 2016 at 3:29 p.m.

    Because we do not have a player who's even close to Bradley. If he's being forced to play out of position, it's not his fault.

  16. cisco martinez, March 29, 2016 at 3:18 p.m.

    Klinsmann inability to pick decent players alone is a reason for his dismissal. Pulisic, feilhaber, Goodson, Miazgza, how come they are not in the roster? Amongst his inability to chose players, playing them out of position, Bradley is not a playmaker, bedoya as a center mid and left midfielder, Cameron as a right back when he should start in the middle over gonzalez, playing yedlin as a winger is not a bad idea but his ability to get forward as a fullback leaves the element of surprise.

  17. Wooden Ships replied, March 29, 2016 at 3:37 p.m.

    Like your thinking Cisco, welcome back. Although, with Miazga I sure hope he has a better night tonight in Frisco. Parker was every where for the U-23's. Feilhaber would be a welcome inclusion in the mid with Bedoya, Nagbe, Nyguen. For tonight, the senior team, options of Morris, Wood and Pulisic up top would be nice.

  18. milton stevens, March 29, 2016 at 4:34 p.m.

    usa needs to start more wars. we must -win invade guatamala... we'll teach their ass a lesson - go army

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