It wasn’t pretty but the U.S. Men’s National Team earned their first-ever FIFA World Cup qualifying win in Guatemala on Wednesday night behind a Carlos Bocanegra goal. It was a hard-fought match in very hostile circumstances that saw seven yellow cards, two red cards and 40 total fouls.
If you have not seen the the flying elbow on Eddie Lewis by Guatemala’s Gustavo Cabrera head over to ussoccer.com to catch it. The Macho man Randy Savage would have been proud of it! Remarkably the Guatemala press did not think the challenge warranted a card and the consensus was that the referee was in the tank for the U.S.
After the game U.S. head coach Bob Bradley said
“It was a very hard fought game, and for us a hard earned three points. The win is based more on the determination of our team. Sometimes it’s necessary to win games in that way. It was a game where we relied on the effort, team spirit, and the mentality of the group. Our experienced players have made the point to the team that qualifying is always difficult away from home. You have to expect games to be very tough. We have played some tough games in the last year, but none of them are qualifiers. To experience it and to win in that fashion is good for the group.”
It certainly was not a vintage performance by the U.S., but some players stood tall in difficult circumstances. Tim Howard had a terrific game on goal and the #1 shirt looks to be his for a long long time. Oguchi Onyewu had a really good game in the middle and contained the dangerous Carlos Ruiz.
Two problems for the U.S. defense was the play of fullbacks Heath Pearce and Steve Cherundolo. Both of them were burned repeatedly in the game as all the Guatemala threats came down the flanks. To compound Cherundolo’s miserable night, he got himself sent off for two silly cards. Michael Parkhurst is back after impressing in the Olympics and I would have to expect that he will be in the next round of qualifying games.
There were no real bright sports in the U.S. midfield which often found itself overrun by Guatemala. Bradley and Mastroeni were the best of the bunch while Landon Donovan was largely invisible. Not what you would expect from your best player. Brian Ching worked really hard without any support from either Donovan or Dempsey.
Two bright spots for the U.S. were the Glasgow Rangers pair of DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu who both had a positive impact on the game when they came in as subs.
Overall this was a job well done for the U.S. Ten points will take the U.S. through to the next round and with games against Cuba in Havana on September 6th and a home game against Trinidad & Tobago in Chicago on September 10th, the U.S should have wrapped up nine points after only three games, almost guaranteeing that they proceed in the tournament.