All the hand-wringing, head scratching and angry tweeting apparently sent a message to the United State men’s national team following its 2-1 loss at Guatemala this past Friday. Either that, or personal embarrassment over becoming the first American team to ever take a loss to the Central American nation.
Returning to the site of some of the most famous games in USMNT history, this team decided to come to play on Tuesday night. It resulted in a 4-0 demolition of Guatemala by the USMNT and a “crisis” averted en route to hopeful qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
After sustained pressure for most of the first 10 minutes, a brilliant run and an even more brilliant pass over the top would get the game really going for the United States. As Gyasi Zardes made a run through the heart of the Guatemalan defense, he was followed up by veteran Clint Dempsey and he slammed home the loose ball for a 1-0 USMNT lead in the 12th minute.
It would be all USMNT from that point forward, with the team playing with most of the possession and most of the passion in front of the usually pro-USA crowd at Mapfre Stadium.
The floodgates continued to stay open after the first goal for the USMNT, and just over 20 minutes later the famous scoreline appeared — 2-0 to the United States courtesy of a great free kick from Michael Bradley and a great run by defender Geoff Cameron.
Despite the familiar Dos a Cero scoreline at the half, it was difficult to not believe this game should’ve been put away even more. A bad miss by Bobby Wood following Geoff Cameron’s goal and a few other blown chances and it could’ve/should’ve been 3 or 4-0 very easily.
It was something even manager Jurgen Klinsmann mentioned at halftime, noting that goal differential plays a big part in World Cup qualifying and that he “would’ve liked to seen another (goal) and another and another.”
One had to wonder if the USMNT got that message as well at the half, because 20 seconds in to the second half it was a 3-0 lead courtesy Graham Zusi. That from a player who wasn’t even included in the original squad for the match on Friday in Guatemala.
After that, it was chance upon chance that just never materialized for the USMNT. Whether it was off timing between sub Jozy Altidore and the rest of the offensive-minded players or passes that stuck on the feet of players through on goal, nothing much more happened for the hosts.
That was until the 80th minute, as 17-year-old Christian Pulisic, made a historical appearance for his national side. His substitution in the 80th minute not only cap-tied him to the USMNT for the rest of his career, but made him the youngest ever player to receive a cap in a World Cup qualifier for the national team.
However, the final 10 minutes were all about the rest of his teammates, as Pulisic was witness to one goal that should’ve never been called for offsides and Jozy Altidore’s 89th minute nightcap for the 4-0 final scoreline.
All of it added up to a match that left fans scratching their heads, this time trying to figure out “how did this team lose to that Guatemala team?”
For once it appeared manger Jurgen Klinsmann figured out the right players in right positions, going with the 4-3-3 lineup to start and making Geoff Cameron and Kyle Beckerman linking pieces from the backline.
It allowed Bradley, Dempsey and Zusi time to roam and take the game by the scruff of the neck when needed. The vets knew exactly what was at stake and they showed up in a way many have been clamoring for in the past year or so.
Putting that performance down has to give the USMNT confidence going forward. The question is, can this team maintain the form and momentum through to Sept. 2? Because that is the next time a game will truly matter.
Sorry Copa America.
Such is the mystery and intrigue of the marathon that is CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.