With Jurgen Klinsmann fielding what can generously be described as a curious lineup the U.S. MNT lost for the first time ever to Guatemala in a World Cup Qualifier, dropping a 2-0 decision to Los Chapines Friday night in Guatemala City.
Klinsmann had called for the U.S to take all six available points from this two-game set versus Guatemala but as the Americans head into Tuesday’s rematch in Frisco, Texas the best the Americans can hope for is an even split.
Klinsmann’s first lineup controversy on the night began in goal, where the coach selected new Colorado signee Tim Howard to start over Brad Guzan, even though the World Cup hero has been relegated to the Everton bench in recent weeks.
It would be harsh to blame Howard for either Guatemala goal but Klinsmann’s head-scratching lineup choices played a big part in Friday night’s debacle.
The U.S. had not lost to Guatemala in any competition since a 1-0 friendly loss way back in 1988. The Yanks then reeled off 21 consecutive games without a defeat to the Chapines under the stewardship of Steve Sampson, Bruce Arena, and finally Bob Bradley.
That stretch of success ended Friday night at Estadio Mateo Flores under the watchful eye of Jurgen Klinsmann who saw his team fall behind after just seven minutes when Mix Diskerud was beaten by Rafael Morales from a corner kick.
That corner kick came from a badly mis-hit back pass from Monterrey wingback Fabian Castillo, surprisingly plucked off of the national team scrap heap for these World Cup Qualifiers by Klinsmann.
The second Guatemala goal came from a 15th-minute goal kick that managed to elude U.S. center back pairing Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco who could do nothing to stop the 36-year-old former MLS nuisance Carlos Ruiz from beating Howard.
The U.S. were without center backs John Brooks and Matt Besler through injury but Klinsmann compounded matters by continuing with his maddening insistence of selecting players out of position.
With the simple solution of playing DeAndre Yedlin at right fullback and Geoff Cameron at center back available to him, Klinsmann outsmarted himself. The coach inserted Michael Orozco at center back, slid Cameron over to right fullback and pushed Yedlin into a right midfield position.
Klinsmann then paired Diskerud and Michael Bradley in the center of the midfield, although it could be said that the coach reversed the pairs roles, assigning Bradley the playmaking responsibilities while saddling Diskerud with the primary defensive midfield responsibilities.
This result sees Guatemala jump ahead of the U.S. into third place in Group C of the fourth round of World Cup Qualification behind Trinidad and Tobago with seven points, Guatemala with six, with the U.S. at four points outpacing just St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The top two teams in each of the three groups will advance to the Hex, the final round of qualifiers in CONCACAF.
Expectations were high for the U.S entering this phase of the competition with Klinsmann calling on his charges to claim all six available points from this series with Guatemala
Instead, Klinsmann and his team come into Tuesday night’s rematch at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio under real pressure. A win would calm the nerves, a loss?
That couldn’t happen, right?
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
GUA 2 0 2
GUA – Rafael Morales (Jean Marquez) 7th minute
GUA – Carlos Ruiz (Paulo Motta) 15
USA: 12-Tim Howard; 20-Geoff Cameron, 3-Omar Gonzalez (17-Jozy Altidore, 66), 14-Michael Orozco (9-Gyasi Zardes, 59), 23-Edgar Castillo; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 10-Mix Diskerud (16-Darlington Nagbe, 46), 11-Alejandro Bedoya; 8-Clint Dempsey, 7-Bobby Wood
Subs Not Used: 1-Brad Guzan; 5-Matt Besler, 6-Lee Nguyen, 13-Ethan Finlay, 15-Kyle Beckerman, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 19-Ventura Alvarado, 21-Steve Birnbaum, 22-William Yarbrough
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
GUA: 12-Paulo Motta; 3-Cristian Jimenez, 4-Hamilton Lopez, 5-Moises Hernandez, 8-Jean Marquez, 9-Gerson Tinoco, 10-Jose Contreras (13-Carlos Castrillo, 71), 14-Rafael Morales, 18-Stefano Cincotta (16-Marco Pappa, 46), 20-Carlos Ruiz (17-Gerardo Arias, 89), 22-Rodrigo Saravia
Subs Not Used: 1-Ricardo Jerez, 2-Jonathan Winibacker Lopez, 6-Marco Rivas, 7-Luis Fernando Martinez, 11-Mafre Icute, 15-Luis Cardona 19-Kevin Arriola, 21-Jose Carlos Garcia, 23-Edi Guerra
Head coach: Walter Claveri
Stats Summary: USA / GUA
Shots: 8 / 10
Shots on Goal: 5 / 4
Saves: 2 / 5
Corner Kicks: 6 / 3
Fouls: 18 / 14
Offside: 4 / 1
GUA – Moises Hernandez (caution) 8th minute
GUA – Marco Pappa (caution) 78
USA – Michael Bradley (caution) 83