October 16, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
U.S. convincing in 3-1 win over Guatemala
and Michael Lewis
Editor, Big Apple Soccer.com
KANSAS CITY, Kan.---If there were any doubts a week ago that the United States would advance to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, they were dispelled Tuesday night with a convincing 3-1 win over Guatemala at Livestrong Sporting Park. Clint Dempsey led the way for the U.S., scoring two goals and contributing an assist on the other.
|Clint Dempsey lived up to his nickname on Tuesday, hitting for a deuce in the USA's 3-1 World Cup Qualifying win over Guatemala.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The Americans (4-1-1, 13 points) clinched the CONCACAF Group A semifinal title, while Guatemala (3-2-1, 10) finished third and was eliminated. Jamaica, which defeated Antigua & Barbuda at home, 4-1, qualified as the other Group A side to reach next year’s hexagonal.
Things looked gloomy for the United States at the outset when Carlos Ruiz, long a thorn in the U.S. side put Guatemala on the board just five minutes into the game. Manuel Contreras played a ball over the top and Ruiz bolted past U.S defender Carlos Bocanegra and was nearly two yards in front of him when the ball arrived. Tim Howard came out to try and cut Ruiz off, but the U.S. goalkeeper committed too early, and found himself on the ground as Ruiz dribbled around him and put the ball in the net as Bocanegra watched helplessly.
Five minutes later it was Bocanegra who equalized for the United States. Graham Zusi, a hometown favorite and standout with Sporting Kansas City, sent a corner kick into the penalty area that was headed down by Dempsey, and tipped in by Bocanegra.
The goal was Bocanegra's 14th at the international level, breaking the record for U.S. defenders he held with Marcelo Balboa.
From there the U.S. was off to the races. Dempsey made it 2-1 in the 18th minute. Right back Steve Cherundolo sent a ball down the right side. Eddie Johnson, who scored two goals on Friday against Antigua and Barbuda, flew down the right wing and played the ball into the penalty area. Dempsey was making a run at the opposite post and was there to receive the cross and put it in as he got tangled up with Guatemalan defender Jonathan Lopez.
Dempsey doubled his output in the 36th minute. Michael Bradley played the ball into the penalty area. Dempsey made a run toward the same post. Guatemalan goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez came out on the initial ball, but Dempsey got to it and again put it inside the post. Jerez chased down referee Roberto Moreno looking for a call, but the goal stood.
In an attempt to pump some life into his team at halftime, Guatemala coach Ever Hugo Almeida made two halftime substitutions. Midfielder Marco Pappa, who surprisingly started the game on the bench despite being considered the team's best player, replaced Carlos Figueroa. Forward Minor Lopez came on for midfielder Mario Rodriguez.
Despite the fresh legs, it was the Americans who took the initiative and forced the issue. Jerez was forced to make a two-handed save on a Danny Williams' blast from distance in the 56th minute before Dempsey barely missed completing his hat trick seconds later when he could not connect with a right-wing cross from Gomez.
The U.S played the entire match with a high level of energy and came close to scoring on several occasions. Johnson, who had the touch on Friday seemed cursed on Tuesday. In the 29th minute, he had a dangerous header that was grabbed by Jerez, and in the 51sth minute, Herculez Gomez played a perfect ball across the area, but Johnson could not connect. Five minutes later, Johnson missed again.
Howard made a huge save in the 66th minute, on a shot by Jose Contreras. He could not hold onto the ball initially, but while on the ground, managed to kick the ball out of danger.