USMNT Report: Who's to Blame?

USA fell to Guatemala, 2-0, at the Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City. But who do fans blame?
by Herb Scribner   |   Saturday, March 26, 2016

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

Things didn’t go as planned for the United States Men’s National Team last night.

That’s about par for the course, no?

In a 2-0 loss to Guatemala at the Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City, the United States’ largest issues, which have plagued them for years now, finally came back to bite them. Poor defense, players in the wrong spots and bad coaching decisions all led the US to its first loss to Guatemala since 1988.

Still, there may be hope moving forward. This loss isn’t necessarily the end of the road, and may be just a minor speed bump that could be way behind Americans after the revenge match this coming Tuesday.

Assuming, of course, the USA rights the ship.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Geoff Cameron — It was really difficult to pick someone on this team who played well in Guatemala. But Cameron proved to be the best of the bunch. His constant defending and completed passes were welcomed, especially since he moved from right defender to sweeper in the game. He worked really well in the back with Edgar Castillo, who similarly had some nice passes out the back.

ANALYSIS: In the immediate aftermath of this game, USA soccer fans and media pundits were quick to blame various players, coaches and systems for this loss.

You could blame the US defense, a common issue for the team that hasn’t gotten any better under USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s rule. The first Guatemala goal showed many USA players just standing around, with no one marking the goal post or staying tight on their men. Guatemala clawed their way to the goal, while the Americans hung back and relied on goalkeeper Tim Howard.

It didn’t go well. 

And although Cameron and Castillo worked well out the back, Omar Gonzalez was lazy once again. He and Michael Orozco both let up that second Carlos Ruiz goal, which had to be some of the worst defensive showcases in recent US history — if you can even call it that.

You could also throw some blame towards the starting lineup, but, then again, it was packed with many USA veterans. 

Clint Dempsey had his opportunities, but many of them were ill-taken, including that shot at the 56th minute which went right at the goalkeeper. Better placement would have been welcomed at that point.

DeAndre Yedlin didn’t succeed on the wing, either, and Michael Bradley just had a horrible night. He didn’t move up in attack very much. It may be time to limit his attacking midfield opportunities, since that’s not what he is in the slightest sense. But, then again, his defensive game was a little lackluster last night too.

Fellow midfielder Mix Diskerud just isn’t good enough to hold that backline and clear up the messes, something that Kyle Beckerman, who was on the bench in this game, does really well.

And goalkeeper Howard looks like he’s in need of a huge turnaround. Benched in Everton and on his way back to America to play for the Colorado Rapids, the stalwart we saw in the 2014 World Cups seems to be long gone. He made just one save in this game, but missed those two Guatemala goals. His performance was so bad that Guatemala’s goalscorer Ruiz commented after the game that he made such a run against Howard because he knew the keeper wasn’t playing. That’s saying something. 

But really, and this has been said before but needs to be said again, a lot of the blame needs to be placed on coach Klinsmann. This game wasn’t just a one-off fluke loss. It’s the buildup of a number of issues that have hurt the US time and time again under Klinsmann’s reign. Like we’ve seen before, the backline was yet again different than ones before — Castillo, for example, hadn’t played for the US in two years — showing that this team has little familiarity with each other (it doesn’t help either that Klinsmann subbed off two center backs towards the end of the game). And Klinsmann continues to utilize players in the wrong ways, throwing a number of them in odd spots that aren’t their natural positions.

Not to mention, Klinsmann’s substitutions and shifts of the lineup came too late. Jozy Alitdore was brought on the 66th minute, but rarely got an opportunity to see the ball. Darlington Nagbe’s entrance was a welcomed sight, but he didn’t have much influence in the game. Gyasi Zardes barely did anything either on the flanks. 

And, maybe more importantly than the tangible moves and shifts, we need to look at the intangibles here. After the game, when asked why there seemed to be a lack of focus from the players, Klinsmann didn’t accept blame or call out the coaching staff. Instead, he said the reporters needed to ask the players that question.

Yet again, Klinsmann refuses to accept the blame for the lackluster team he’s created. This is a USA team that’s unfamiliar with each other, where players slide into a variety of roles. Nothing stays the same. Even we, as fans, analysts and writers of the game, don’t know what’s to come next. It’s hard to build a successful and competitive program when you have no clue who you’re going to send onto the field for the next game, or where they’re going to play. 

Klinsmann is playing this like a game of Scrabble. No wonder it’s turned out a lot like Sorry.

Of course, this game isn’t the end of the world. Fox Soccer analyst Alexi Lalas put it perfectly on Twitter Saturday morning: we just need a win in Columbus and this is all in the past.

Not to mention, the US found itself in a similar situation back in 2014. The team, after a loss to Jamaica, found itself in second place, but with 4 points — the same that the US has now. So even though everything looks bad now, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. The USA is still on a path to qualify for the next round of World Cup Qualification. 

Although those prospects aren’t as high as we might like.

It’s a little worrying that the USA had such a poor and lackluster performance against Guatemala, a team that has had little-to-no international influence in recent years (and had started a reserve FC Dallas player in its backline). We’ll see if this is just a hiccup in the USA’s journey to the World Cup, or the beginning of a bigger downward spiral.

But with Klinsmann and his USA team, you never really know.

NEXT UP: March 29 — WCQ: United States vs. Guatemala, MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio. 7 p.m. EST, ESPN2, UniMas, UDN.


UMass Amherst
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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.