With their backs to the wall, the U.S. MNT rebounded from Friday’s dreadful road loss in Guatemala to win 4-0 over that same opponent Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio.
Playing in the friendly confines of Columbus’ MAPFRE Stadium, formerly Crew Stadium and home of dos a cero, the U.S. played like a desperate team and benefitted from that attitude.
A loss would have put the Americans in very real jeopardy of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and raised very real questions about U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s job security.
With that backdrop, the U.S. came out in a far more aggressive mood than the one they exhibited four nights earlier in Guatemala when the Americans were passive and disorganized as they fell behind by two goals in the opening quarter of an hour on the way to a 2-0 loss.
Veterans Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey stepped up in this big spot Tuesday and Klinsmann’s lineup changes worked a charm as the U.S. pressed Los Chapines from the opening whistle.
The home team’s attitude paid dividends a dozen minutes in when Clint Dempsey fired the U.S. into the early lead. Geoff Cameron, who lined out at center back in this match, intercepted a Guatemala pass and delivered a long ball into Gyasi Zardes. With Zardes blanketed by a pair of Colombia defenders, the ball broke for Dempsey, who made no mistake.
Dempsey had missed some solid chances in Guatemala but the Seattle Sounders man finished with aplomb to send the Americans on the way, most likely, to the fifth and final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers.
Geoff Cameron headed home from Michael Bradley’s perfectly placed free kick in the 35th minute and the U.S. went to the intermission with a 2-0 lead.
The Yanks quickly put this match to bed on the resumption when Graham Zusi scored less than 20 seconds into the second half. DeAndre Yedlin was excellent throughout, operating as a right fullback, and it was his pass to Gyasi Zardes that led to the Zusi goal.
The ball bounced off of the Galaxy man, Zusi pounced and that was that. Oh, the home team let up a bit and Guatemala kept battling but the only goal left to be scored in this game went to the U.S in the 89 minute from substitute Jozy Altidore. Dempsey made it happen and the points pushed the Americans past Guatemala and into second place in Group C behind Trinidad and Tobago.
The win should propel the U.S. on to the Hex and it surely will take some pressure off of Jurgen Klinsmann. It also begs the question, why did this U.S. team perform so badly in Guatemala?
Klinsmann pushed the right buttons on Tuesday with Cameron and Yedlin flourishing in their preferred positions in the backline and Bradley far more dynamic surrounded in a three man midfield by Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman.
Up front Dempsey had the fire in his eyes and a pair of willing runners in Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes, on his wings and against Guatemala that was plenty.
Columbus fans were thrilled to see Crew winger Ethan Finlay checking into the game, less excited when the hometown boy was denied a goal on an incorrect offside call.
Klinsmann also handed Christian Pulisic his first full national team cap, claiming the 17- year -old Dortmund midfielder for the U.S., no doubt disappointing Croatia.
The Americans are back in WCQ action September 2, at St. Vincent and the Grenadines and may be able to clinch a spot in the Hex with a win over the CONCACAF minnows.
If not, the Yanks host Trinidad and Tobago September 6, in Jacksonville, Florida in the final game of the fourth round of CONCACAF WCQ.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 2 4
GUA 0 0 0
USA – Clint Dempsey (Gyasi Zardes) 12th minute
USA – Geoff Cameron (Michael Bradley) 35
USA – Graham Zusi (Gyasi Zardes) 46
USA – Jozy Altidore (Clint Dempsey) 89
USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 21-Steve Birnbaum, 20-Geoff Cameron, 23-Edgar Castillo; 19-Graham Zusi (11-Christian Pulisic, 81), 15-Kyle Beckerman, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.); 7-Bobby Wood (17-Jozy Altidore, 66), 8-Clint Dempsey, 9-Gyasi Zardes (13-Ethan Finlay, 71)
Subs Not Used: 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Ventura Alvarado, 6-Lee Nguyen, 10-Mix Diskerud, 12-Tim Howard, 14-Michael Orozco, 16-Darlington Nagbe, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 22-David Bingham
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
GUA: 12-Paulo Motta; 3-Cristian Jimenez, 5-Moises Hernandez, 8-Jean Marquez, 9-Gerson Tinoco (7-Luis Fernando Martinez, 74); 11-Mafre Icute (20-Carlos Ruiz, 46), 13-Carlos Castrillo, 14-Rafael Morales, 10-Jose Contreras; 18-Stefano Cincotta (16-Marco Pappa, 46), 22-Rodrigo Saravia
Subs Not Used: 1-Ricardo Jerez, 2-Jonathan Winibacker Lopez, 4-Hamilton Lopez, 6-Marco Rivas, 15-Luis Cardona, 17-Gerardo Arias, 19-Kevin Arriola, 21-Jose Carlos Garcia, 23-Edi Guerra
Head coach: Walter Claveri
Stats Summary: USA / GUA
Shots: 6 / 4
Shots on Goal: 3 / 1
Saves: 1 / 0
Corner Kicks: 5 / 1
Fouls: 14 / 14
Offside: 6 / 0
GUA – Cristian Jimenez (caution) 34th minute
USA – Michael Bradley (caution) 71