The preview for this one almost wrote itself at the press conference following the Brazil friendly.
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann charged his squad with being more “nasty” next time they laced up their cleats after their 4-1 Marcelo-led beatdown. According to the manager, the US players needed to get stuck in more and practice the lost black arts of the beautiful game.
It’s a double-edged sword asking a team to dirty up a game, especially in World Cup qualifying where one wrong “statement” can lead to a red card, then in turn initiative for a weaker US opponent and then perhaps points going the wrong way in the match.
It’s an even worse disposition to take when a team is on the road where regrouping in the face of slanted calls or being put on edge by a fervent crowd can cause focus to slip just the necessary tad.
So the common wisdom would be for the US players to take the comments in stride and go to the office with at most a small change in character.
That’s where history comes in though.
USA vs. Guatemala, same Estadio Mateo Flores as Tuesday night at 7:30.
The US battling in Guatemala City against a feisty La Bicolor side. Steve Cherundolo misses a tackles and swipes at the leg of an attacker with his arm as he lies prone after getting beaten.
Eddie Lewis does airborne and gets DeRossi’d, woozified, bleeding profusely.
The 80th stanza then sees Carlos Ruiz swim his way through the US central defense and drag his leg enough to hit Tim Howard–purposely–in the head after Howard has scooped up the marble.
The moment here for USMNT fans?
Howard having to protect himself while none of his teammates readily interceded.
Maybe they didn’t know what happened or maybe it took a minute to set in. Maybe it was weariness. Maybe they were holding their character. The 1-0 result would prove that they in fact did.
Still it is off-putting to see the keeper have to fend for himself in the face of a blatant attempt to injure.
There are two sides to everything and this is where CONCACAF rookie Jurgen Klinsmann’s commentary about “being nasty” may come to bear.
How will the US play Tuesday’s match in Guatemala? Will it get “appropriately” nasty and keep an even keel as a barrage of who-knows-what rains down on them on the pitch and from the stands? Will the States be to demur? Will Jermaine Jones…or rather the entire US be too aggressive and risk dropping a man down?
There is one change in that match–broached later here–that is. Guatemala is a counterattacking side and the US are looking for possession. Will that retard the vitriol as up-down affairs tend to get chippier faster.
Without further Freddy Adu, on to our (mini) preview.
As usual it goes:
About The Opponent
TSG What We’re Looking For?
11 At the Whistle
About The Opponent:
First stop is not TSG’s preview on this one. Blasphemy!
Brent Latham is a freelance writer who typically writes for ESPN and MLSSoccer. He’s based in Guatemala and TSG tried to get him to write this section. No deal.
His preview here really cannot be duplicated. So check it out.
Guatemala come in to the game wounded and in need of points. They jaunted over to Jamaica and came back on the wrong side of 2-1. They’re at home and they need a victory.
With that comes urgency.
However it is yet to be determined whether a young Guatemala side can bottle that urgency, that energy appropriately while maintaining shape and doing what they do best. Will Guatemala beat itself or will it be a reckoning of strictly American consequence?
Against Jamaica, the worst happened for Guatemala, the blue & whites fell behind. Coach Ever Almeida prefers for his troops to maintain discipline in a 5-4-1, remaining defensively stout (Almeida was a keeper in his day) breaking on the counter after sucking the opponent in.
Once Jamaica got up on Guatemala, La Bicolor was rearranged into a more attacking 3-4-3, hoping to create turnover advantages in midfield and have less space to navigate on the way to pay dirt.
Expect a 5-4-1 (much like Antigua & Barbuda regressed into Friday night) from Guatemala and for them to be counseled in the wake of the Jamaican loss.
They’ll likely deploy a backline of Carlos Gallardo, Jonathan Lopez, Luiz Rodriguez, Elias Vasquez and Erwin Moran. Defender Rafa Morales might enter that fray against the States, but across the board it’s a very youthful backline. Gallardo is the cap leader with 35, with no other player having more 15. So the question becomes–of the three wingback options (Jonathan Lopez, Rafa Morales, or Erwin Morales)–can they snookered into losing shape and joining the attack. Just how composed can they be against the US attack?
Ahead of the back five, are players more familiar in the States, names like Marco Pappa–the MLS version of Jamal Crawford–and Carlos Ruiz spearhead the attack.
While you’ve seen Pappa on MLS’s Chicago Fire, probably the best game to watch how well Pappa and his opposite winger counterpart Jairo Arreloa play in tandem is last year’s quarterfinal Gold Cup loss to Mexico, 2-1.
It was by all accounts a thrilling match and one that the La Bicolor should probably have nabbed if not for several missed chances. Guatemala of course sat deep and sprung to life on a deep change of possession and shredded Mexico’s defense up with Arreloa, Pappa and Ruiz going on mazey runs sometimes all the way from the half-line. Unlike many teams that wilt in track meets, Guatemala seemed stronger than Mexico as the game wore on (though it was Mexico who overcame a goal deficit and won going away.)
For Guatemala, it’s defend deep and counter. That’s their plan.
TSG What Are We Looking For:
• Can Jermaine Jones–and US centerbacks for that matter–avoid being tossed?
You’d knew we pick on Jones and he alone may deserve his own bullet point. It was Cherundolo whose mug was brandished a red last time at Estadio Matteo Flores.
However, Carlos Bocanegra–who has twice had “I’m sending a message fouls” this series–needs to be calm in environs where he is all too familiar.
• The contrarian view on Klinsmann and “Can the US win 1-0 the right way?”
Against Antigua & Barbuda, US media and fans (TSG included) were quick to burn Klinsmann for his team’s inability to score from the run of play and what appeared an overall sloppy or lethargic match.
In truth, the US was always going to beat Antigua & Barbuda.
The US had 89% pass efficiency and 75% of the ball–those are astounding number for the States.
Klinsmann has been magnificent in ironing out a wrinkles in his tenure, foremostly keeping US defensive integrity and especially in the first half.
Bob Bradley’s Egypt was trumpeted Monday because of its exhilarating 3-2 come-from-behind victory. Yet no team wants to find itself two down. Klinsmann has managed to avoid that, specifically by mandating cohesion in field position for the unit as a whole over the US’s favored counterattack, um, attack. As has been mentioned numerous times, the US has been defensively better (via the goals conceded stat) under Klinsmann.
The match in Guatemala–specifically one against a quick strike opponent–will be a test of Klinsmann’s squad’s mental acuity and focus on the game plan.
A 1-0 victory where the US controls the run of play and possession and takes its necessary–and maybe–few chances well, will be a massive result for Klinsmann’s process and system.
Should the US–much like a young talented team with holes–think New England Revolution–get into a game of “I see your counterattack, and I raise you mine”–and especially if it loses–then questions over fitness training and player selection and deployment will persist.
The Jozy Altidore conspiracy?
Okay, something is going on here.
Or it just Jozy being Jozy again?
11 At The Whistle:
The skinny: About ready to give up on this section, tongue-in-cheek.
With Bob Bradley the line-up was more or less the same, for better or worse. Bradley had his favorites and whether they were in form or not (Onyewu, Bornstein, Kljestan) they typically played.
With Klinsmann, it appears he is driving at the best eleven–regardless of position despite his commentary that there was a set depth chart per said position.
Is Jose Torres–much like Kyle Beckerman early in Klinsmann’s tenure–executing the game plan–even if not dominating or succeeding his role–so well that he earns a spot every time? It’s possible.
G: Tim Howard
DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Fabian Johnson
The skinny: Unless a player (like a Ream or Cameron) makes the proverbial leap, you’re likely looking at the US’s starting backline in World Cup 2014 here. There is virtually no depth behind Cherundolo (a scary thought actually) and Clarence Goodson looks to have sewn up the RCB spot–for now. (Let’s pronounce Lichaj a contender when he’s called in.)
If Johnson can’t go, one would, could expect either Torres back at LB if fit himself or Michael Parkhurst inserted with Bocanegra slotted wide–incredulous as that make seem.
By the way, Johnson is listed as “questionable” while Torres is listed as “might play.” Is Klinsmann the type of coach who would slap the questionable label on a player and then play through them as they take the pitch in the opening half?
CDM: Maurice Edu
The skinny: Edu’s speed of defending will come in to play here and in this role he’ll be used just like Ricardo Clark was used against teams like Costa Rica and Honduras for Bob Bradley. Seal off the counter and bide time until his teammates get back behind the ball.
Edu must–MUST–reduce the simple giveaways that leave the US exposed like last World Cup cycle. (Over 13 times the US went down in the 1st half between 2008 and 2010 to turnovers in the attack.)
MID: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones
The skinny: Need to be tidy on the ball. Give aways deep in the attacking zone, especially in the center could spell drop. But they also need to be able to play through balls. The most difficult challenge of the evening may be how Bradley and Jones weight risk versus reward on their incising passes.
FW: Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan
The skinny: Does Dempsey stay up the pitch in this one? One has to wonder–as we did in the last review–if he is dropping deep by design. You’re needed closer to goal Mr. Nagodelicious.
FW: Herculez Gomez
The skinny: Just call him War Horse.
» Why does it feel like a late 2nd half test game for Joe Corona? Speaking of, any chance that Geoff Cameron starts–he should.
» Whose the Jay DeMerit, Frankie Hedjuk of this group?