I almost threw up at the 5th minute when Carlos Ruiz rounded Tim Howard and passed a shot that put Guatemala 1-0 up against the United States in Kansas City. I thought, “Great, another sucker punch.”
Can it still be a sucker punch if you’re not surprised when it happens?
I suppose the United States were expected to put Guatemala to the sword, especially after word let out that Marco papas fritas wouldn’t be starting. Guatemala were playing for the draw, but 5 minutes in, they had a lead.
What we saw from the Americans in Antigua & Barbuda last Friday lacked conviction or any sort of urgency. People made excuses about the pitch conditions, but the Antigua’s players were facing the same strange situation — a soaked cricket pitch too narrow for even 7 year olds to play on. It was almost as though the United States on Friday were resigned to just drawing or even losing that match. On the other side, A&B had a great game. They were tight defensively, and their ‘keeper had a career night. They cared.
The US didn’t put forth the effort or use their creativity/quality to break open the A&B defense. It wasn’t until Alan Gordon, of all people, came on, ran around, and created the winning goal in stoppage time. Frustration had set in and seemed to have clouded the minds and held back the ability of the players. Luckily, Eddie Johnson was positioned at the far post on an Alan Gordon cross and the United States got 3 very undeserved points.
That goal to go 2-1 up in the 90th minute was helpful in making sure Americans forgot that Jürgen tossed on Jermaine Jones in a match we were DRAWING WITH THE 106th RANKED TEAM IN THE WORLD.
Back to Tuesday night, the United States are down 1-0 to Guatemala at home. Livestrong is silent except for the Guatemalans that made the trip to KC. (This is assuming almost no Guatemalans actually live in Kansas City/surrounding areas.) The United States answered quickly with a Carlos Bocanegra goal. Then another goal and another. By the 36th minute, the US were up 3-1 and cruising.
I was so elated, obviously, but I could not keep this feeling of absolute frustration with the team from creeping up.
Over the past 14 or so months, Jürgen has fielded teams that lack creativity or the focus to put away teams much weaker than them. With Jermaine Jones out, there were no personal vendettas being pursued in the middle of the field. Danny Williams did an AMAZING job stopping attacks and linking up play. He and Michael Bradley helped shovel coal into the United States machine that desperately needed to push into Guatemala’s 10-man defense. We played a clean game, which probably would not have happened with Jones in the squad. The back line, shaky at times, sharpened up at half time. In the second half, with Guatemala pushing forward, it seemed the defensive line gained focus and shut down anything that came their way. Zusi was phenomenal when he got the ball. His movement was sharp, decisive, and important. Kljestan and Joe Corona (A PLAYER WHO ACTUALLY WANTED THE BALL OTHER THAN CLINT OR BRADLEY) impressed me a lot, as well.
Anyway, I suppose my point is that Klinsmann does not need to wait for the United States’s back to be up against a wall to play a creative side or a team that wants to go out and score goals. The players don’t need to wait until they play about 7 poor matches in a row before they start playing like their pride is on the line. This overall performance needs to be the norm, not the exception or the reaction.
Unfortunately, the hexagonal will not be as forgiving as the latest phase of qualifying. The other 5 teams in contention for World Cup Qualification see our weaknesses, and they have the tools to exploit it. Between here and there, Jürgen needs to ensure that the United States can play with the same tenacity and focus as they did last night. Quit with the politics and the calling out of players in the media. Quit tinkering. Go and get the job done with the best players available.
At the end of the day, we don’t care if you promised this or that when it came to style of play. Right now, we care about qualifying. This is paramount.