USMNT Report: US Rolls Past Antigua and Draws Guatemala in Summer WCQs

The USMNT earned points in its first two WC Qualifiers with a win over Antigua and a draw with Guatemala
by Herb Scribner   |   Wednesday, June 13, 2012

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

They weren’t the most dominant games in US Soccer history, but the men’s national team earned points against Antigua and Barbuda June 8th with a 3-1 win and against Guatemala on Tuesday with a 1-1 draw in World Cup Qualifying, the first competitive matches the USMNT has played under Jurgen Klinsmann.

Guatemala highlights: Fouls dictated the opening minutes of the US and Guatemala match. Clarence Goodson got himself booked in the 23rd minute on a foul near midfield.

Clint Dempsey was involved early as he was fouled early on, leading Herculez Gomez to make runs at goal. But Dempsey took his involvement to the next level with a strike at the 40th minute off an assist from Fabian Johnson to give the US an early 1-0 lead.

More fouls came to close out the half and continued into the second frame when Guatemala’s Luis Ricardo Rodriguez was handed a yellow card. Not even 10 minutes later, Michael Bradley got his own card, as did Guatemala’s Marco Pappa. Then, just about six minutes following those cards, Maurice Edu received one on a play which had multiple fouls.

And it didn’t stop there. Johnson fouled Carlos Ruiz, who had some dangerous shots all night, in the box to give Guatemala a free kick just outside of the 18-yard-box. Pappa struck it in the back of the net, knotting the game up in the 83rd minute.

Despite late efforts by the US to squeeze in a goal, it proved useless as the game ended with a draw.

Guatemala post-game reactions: Coach Klinsmann’s post-match quotes point to his frustration at not leaving Guatemala with full points.

“Obviously, with the lead one-nil, you want to win it, you want to bring the three points home. We came for three points but I think at the end of the day, the tie, based on all the chances on both sides, is OK.”

“We got a result here. We wanted three points but we’re OK with the one point that we take away leading the group. And knowing now going into Jamaica, for us, we have to get that result as well, which we will do, and we’ll be one of the two top teams that advance. That is our goal as well as Guatemala’s goal.”

Klinsmann foreshadowed the possibility of the USA and Guatemala meeting again in The Hex stage of qualifying.

“Overall, I’m pleased with the performance of our guys. The way they played the game, controlled the game, it was clear to see that we came here for three points – we didn’t come here for a point. I think that leaves an impression as well on the Guatemalan side. Maybe we both go through and we meet again and they’ll know we’re coming for three points.”

Antigua & Barbuda highlights: The US didn’t wait long to get things started against Antigua and Barbuda. Eight minutes in, Landon Donovan connected with Herculez Gomez from a beautifully placed strike from the corner. Though Gomez’s shot didn’t fall in, Carlos Bocanegra followed through with the play to give the Americans a quick lead.

From there, the two sides battled back and forth with the ball. The Americans found it hard breaking through the Antiguan and Barbudan defense for the majority of the first half. But Clint Dempsey, fresh off his Player of the Year season at Fulham, notched a second goal off a Landon Donovan drawn penalty kick to give the Americans a 2-0 lead into halftime.

Then, in the 65th minute, Antigua and Barbuda poked its way through the US defense as Peter Byers took a long touch by Oguchi Onyewu, who had just a few moments earlier subbed on for an injured Jose Torres, to cut the US lead down to one.

Though Antigua and Barbuda had started a comeback and appeared poised to make this a contest, the Americans feared little it appeared as Gomez struck in the 73rd minute to finish the contest.

Antigua & Barbuda post-game reactions: Many fans were expecting a larger goal differential for the Americans in this game. Despite the 3-1 decision, Klinsmann said there wasn’t frustration from the players or the USMNT staff.

“There’s not a level of frustration,” said Klinsmann. “I think there’s kind of a reality check that you’ve got to kind of wear everybody down first … There were enough chances to score more goals, obviously, but then you’ve got to be clinical enough to put them in. The guys know they didn’t do that. They know they can step it up and they will step it up.”

Donovan also had his own opinion of the offense.

“I think we just wanted to get the perfect opportunity,” said Donovan. “We probably should have been better about shooting. We were a little unlucky with a few plays that didn’t come off, but on the night we probably had 20 chances or so to score. I think three is a good number. It would have been nice to score more.”

But Gomez, who contributed with his goal and nearly had one early on, said there is still some things that the US needs to improve on going forward.

“When you play against these teams you know they’re going to come in, they’re going to defend, they’re going to try and make it difficult,” said Gomez. “They’re going to put numbers behind the ball. And that means that now for us the challenge is can we be sharp enough and just dangerous enough in how we play and how we move and how then we put them under pressure. I thought at times it was good and at times I thought that part could have been better.”

The road to now: This was the first competitive match for Klinsmann, with his previous few matches being friendlies. The most recent was a 0-0 draw with Canada, which followed a 4-1 loss to Brazil and a 5-1 win over Scotland.

The contest against Antigua and Barbuda followed Klinsmann’s declaration that the USMNT needed to play a little “nastier.” And that the former German international superstar claiming the top forward position is still anybody’s to win.

From the stands: A solid 23,971 packed into Raymond James Stadium, despite a serious dose of wet Tampa Bay weather. The US vs. Guatemala attendance at Estadio Mateo Flores was given as 18,000.

How I see it: Like I said on Twitter a few nights ago, I can’t seem to figure out what the USMNT is doing exactly. I can’t tell if they’re an inspired, gung-ho-type of team that’s willing to sacrifice it all for a win, or a pathetic and slow side that only plays when it matters.

I think that we can all agree that there have been some issues recently. There’s been far too many defensive midfielders for a side that looks like it wants to play a more attacking style. There still hasn’t been that dynamic and central striker to put balls in the back of the net. The USMNT had an unconvincing victory over Antigua and Barbuda and a drag of a draw with Guatemala. And right now only goal differential is keeping them on top of their World Cup Qualifying group over Jamaica – who just drew 0-0 with Antigua and Barbuda.

Like I said, there’s a lot wrong with the USMNT, despite their place in the table.

I thought I could blame it on the nature of sports. Maybe this is a lull period for the USMNT, and they’re in the middle of a restructuring and rebuilding phase. But the more and more I think about it, the USMNT has some of the best talent America has ever produced. So why aren’t they getting it done?

Is Klinsmann to blame? Many will blame him, for the coach is always the one wearing the target. But I don’t want to blame Klinsmann, so I won’t. Klinsmann has brought SOMETHING to the US side. I can’t exactly determine what it is yet. I can’t tell if its inspiration or just a new scope to watch it. The team looks different, it feels different, but the results are more or less the same as they were under Bob Bradley.

Maybe the upcoming break will be good for all of us. We’ve watched a great deal of USMNT matches recently. They’ve been jam-packed into the early part of summer. So maybe this break will refresh our eyes so that next time we see the USMNT, we’ll be able to clearly see that special spark, if it’s present.

That’s going to be my advice for the lot of you. Take a star-spangled break. We’ve got until September before the USMNT has another competitive match. Let’s take a moment, take a breather, and check back with the team later. Of course, read the news, read the columns, do what you can. But let’s take this break as an opportunity to reassess how we want to look at the US side.

Because maybe we’ve got this idea in our heads that we should be pounding in boat loads of goals. It’s easy to be swept up in euphoria as Klinsmann brought a lot of optimism when he joined the ranks. So it’s clear that maybe that’s what we’re supposed to expect.

The reality might be, that this USMNT squad is really just an average national team that is going to struggle a bit through qualifying. Now we have some time for us to prove that theory wrong.

Up next: Though there have been rumors circulating about the US taking on Russia in a friendly and possibly playing Mexico at Estadio Azteca, the next official match for the USMNT will come Sept. 11 against Jamaica at Columbus Crew Stadium in Ohio.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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