U.S. Wins 3-1, Secures Passage to Hexagonal
October 16, 2012
Five minutes later, U.S. midfielder Graham Zusi delivered a beautiful corner kick that Clint Dempsey headed toward goal. Carlos Bocanegra, the man who let Ruiz sneak behind the American defense just a few minutes earlier, made a typically smart run into the box, got on the ball, and blasted Dempsey’s flicked header into the back of the net.Ten minutes. Two goals. Aggressive attacking. Porous defending. Anything but boring. And things were just getting started. Despite falling behind early, the United States responded with confidence and authority, scoring three unanswered goals and securing passage to the Hexagonal with a decisive 3-1 victory over Guatemala. Clint Dempsey played the starring role, scoring his 29th and 30th goals for the Yanks. But the entire U.S. offense played well, and more importantly, played as a unit. In the 18th minute, Michael Bradley sent a brilliant pass down the right wing that found Eddie Johnson in stride. Johnson sent a simple-yet-effective cross in front of goal and Dempsey adjusted his run and chipped a soft shot into goal to put the U.S. up 2-1. In the 36th minute Dempsey delivered again, this time after some great off-the-ball movement and triangular play. Herculez Gomez tapped a quick pass to Bradley who one-timed a pass toward goal. Was it a pass or a shot? It didn’t matter, as Dempsey was there to put the ball away with an exclamation point. Up 3-1 at the half, the U.S. looked to be in complete control of the match. Desperate to get back in the game, Guatemala made two big changes at intermission. The out-of-form but extremely talented midfielder Marco Pappa came on, as did Minor Lopez, a tall, dangerous attacker. Perhaps enlivened by these personnel changes, Guatemala came on strong and put several balls on frame in the first few minutes of the second half. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard made several strong saves, however, and the U.S. gradually regained the momentum. In the 54th minute, the U.S. had a great chance to put the game out of reach. The tireless Herculez Gomez chased a ball down on the right wing and delivered a delicious cross to a wide-open Eddie Johnson in front of goal. The Seattle Sounders striker only had to guide the ball into the back of the net, but he scuffed the chance and the ball skipped away harmlessly. Two minutes later, Johnson had another point-blank opportunity but Guatemalan goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez did well to stop Johnson’s well-struck left-footed shot. Thanks to a high-pressure, ball-winning defense, the U.S. had another superb chance to go up by three goals just a few seconds later. Gomez once again started the play with a cross from the right wing. It deflected off a Guatemalan defender and sailed toward Dempsey, who narrowly missed connecting on a header from three yards out. As the 70th minute approached, the Americans showed good game-management acumen, playing keep away in the center of the pitch and forcing the Chapines to chase the game. As the Guatemalans fought to regain possession—burning through precious energy reserves in the process—the Yanks found gaps in their defense and created a series of scoring opportunities. None of the U.S. chances led to a fourth goal, but by retaining possession and keeping the ball in the Guatemalan half for such long stretches, the Americans did something they hadn’t yet done during qualifying: They won easily, and going away. Jurgen Klinsmann had a good day at the office, too. He made a series of savvy substitutions—Sacha Kljestan for Gomez; Maurice Edu for Zusi; and Joe Corona for Johnson—and every move seemed to give the U.S. an extra burst of confidence that the game was theirs. The 3-1 U.S. victory, combined with Jamaica’s 4-1 home win over Antigua and Barbuda, means that Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda are eliminated from World Cup qualification. Jamaica and the U.S., meanwhile, will move on to the Hex.