USMNT Report: Moving Forward

The USMNT has qualified for the Hexagonal phase of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying
by Herb Scribner   |   Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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

Clint Dempsey may have solidified himself as the new United States Men’s National Team hero Tuesday night against Guatemala.

In a match that the US could not afford to lose, Dempsey rose to the occasion and scored two goals to help lead the USMNT over Guatemala, 3-1, from LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

With the win, the Americans move on to the next and final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.

GUATEMALA HIGHLIGHTS: What eventually turned into an ideal result for the USMNT began as a nightmare.

In the fifth minute, Guatemala got past the backline and riled both the US defense and the 16,947 fans in attendance. Carlos Ruiz – a former MLS star that has the most postseason goals in league history after his time with FC Dallas, Toronto FC, Philadelphia Union and Los Angeles Galaxy – skirted around the left post away from US goalkeeper Tim Howard to pop in the opening goal.

This didn’t sit well with the US, as the team quickly turned on the offensive side of the ball. In the 10th minute, Graham Zusi, playing on his home field, sent in a corner kick that connected with Dempsey. The Spurs forward headed the ball to the left of captain Carlos Bocanegra, who volleyed the ball into the net to equalize.

Eight minutes later, Steve Cherundolo moved the ball up the right flank with his left and set the ball up for Eddie Johnson. EJ, who scored two goals on Friday against Antigua, crossed to Dempsey, and the US was up, 2-1.

The Americans weren’t done.

In the 36th minute, Michael Bradley and Herculez Gomez worked the ball up the field before Bradley lifted it in the air passed sprawled Guatemalan goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez Jr. Dempsey guided the ball right into the goal to make it 3-1.

Johnson and Dempsey both had chances later on in the match to increase the lead, but both weren’t enough to get passed the Guatemalan keeper.

POST-GAME REACTIONS: Klinsmann thought the result was good, but he hoped for even more goals.

“In a game like this you can never be sure, you never know what could happen,” he said. “In the second half, you could give a goal away then suddenly the dynamics changes and the momentum changes. I wish there would’ve been a fourth goal to kill it off, but overall I’m very pleased. The players responded well. Their attitude overall the last couple days has been very positive, the team is growing and supporting each other.” 

Klinsmann did favor, however, the relationship between Johnson and Dempsey, who kept connecting with each other throughout the game.

“I heard that they know each other quite well and for a long time – longer than they’ve known me,” he said. “They have good chemistry and they get along. On the field, you want to see guys that are there for each other.

Dempsey said he and Johnson share that relationship with the rest of the forwards as well. He also said that the team needs to get better for the Hexagonal phase.

“It’s important to keep that winning mentality and that fight that we showed tonight, we have to bring that every game,” Dempsey said. “We just have to keep working on things and make sure that we get that chemistry and together that we can get the job done and get to the next World Cup and try to do something special there.”

ANALYSIS: The US has advanced to the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying, which puts the team one step closer to making the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. This is exactly where the team wanted to be.

But there is still a lot of work to do.

First off, the USMNT defense appeared sluggish and slow during Tuesday night’s contest. Bocanegra and Cherundolo are both reaching the latter stages of their international careers, and it definitely showed last night as Guatemala nearly broke through on several occasions.

If the US does want to make the World Cup, and make an impact in Brazil if it does, it can’t let goals like Ruiz’s through. I understand completely that Ruiz is a solid goal scorer, but that early goal was more of a slip-up by the defense than anything else. Ruiz shouldn’t have been able to waltz into the net.

Second, the USMNT will have to play to its strengths if it looks to move forward past the Hexagonal. Klinsmann should try and stick with many of the things that worked with this lineup, including Johnson and Zusi, two MLS players who made some great plays against Guatemala. Throwing a wrench into those gears might really stop the train from moving forward.

I think it’s important for the US that Dempsey remains consistent. He’ll have two-goal performances like Tuesday night’s, but then fall back and ghost through matches like he did against Antigua. He needs to pick one, and I’m betting the team wants it to be the former.

I was impressed by Dempsey, though, and Johnson, who made several runs up the flank and appeared as a sure threat throughout the entirety of the match. I think it’s safe to say that Eddie is back for the USA, and back in full form.

Something that might have gone unnoticed last night was that the US won two-straight matches without Landon Donovan. Analysts and fans alike have raised the question about what the USMNT will do once Donovan is gone. And though he was only down with a non-threatening knee injury and not retirement, the US still moved onto the next round. This is something that the US should, surely, pride itself on.

UP NEXT: TBD after the Hexagonal draw


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.