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USA beats Guatemala (a closer look)


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The U.S. men’s national team defeated Guatemala on Wednesday night, 1-0, in the opening match of the World Cup Qualifying group stage. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly for the Americans for the first 60 minutes of the match. Guatemala created chances, torched the American flanks, and gave the crowd every reason to go crazy.

Funny thing is Guatemala never did score. The ‘Chapines’ huffed and puffed but Tim Howard’s world-class form and Guatemala’s own finishing deficiencies kept the match tied until DaMarcus Beasley came in and pumped life into the U.S. team, delivering a perfect cross to a wide-open Carlos Bocanegra for the game’s only goal.

Twenty minutes of solid defending and impressive possession work later, the Americans were on the bus celebrating the U.S. team’s first victory in Guatemala  in 20 years.

There is so much to discuss about this match, from Eddie Lewis’ eye (which I have a picture of) to Tim Howard calling out Carlos Ruiz to a downright hilarious press conference with Guatemalan reporters asking priceless questions.

Let’s get started:

First, let’s start with Eddie Lewis, who was in good spirits after receiving stitches in his right eye following Gustavo Cabrera’s malicious elbow attack on him. The Guatemalan media might want to look at this picture before they go on believing the Cabrera red card was a make-up call:


SoccerTimes writer Bob Wagman asked Lewis if he would still be pretty enough for the LA Galaxy, to which Lewis responded "I think they’ll still find a place for me." In a perfect world, Lewis would take Carlos Ruiz’s old number.

Speaking of Carlos Ruiz, Tim Howard pulled no punches when discussing Ruiz, who kicked him in the head during one sequence when Howard had already pounced on a loose ball.

“He caught me. He kicked me straight in my head," Howard said of Ruiz. "With Carlos, you expect that. You know what, he’s dirty. I wish I could say otherwise but I played in MLS and I’ve seen it. There is no place for it. It’s reckless. It’s there for everyone to see, but again, I kind of expect it."

Howard drew a yellow card for going after Ruiz and smacking his hand away after Ruiz "apologized" to him. Howard wasn’t buying the apology."

“I think you would rather have him come and man up and say, ‘Look, I don’t like you, I’m going to kick you and I’m going to do all that.’" Howard said. "You can almost respect it in a funny way but he has this way about him where he kicks and punches, he’s an asshole and he wants to come and be your friend. There’s just no place for it."

In other words, it sounds like Tim Howard has a little more respect for Cuauhtemoc Blanco than for Ruiz, who managed to smack Heath Pearce in the face and kick Tim Howard in the head and NOT get a single card. (This is where I would normally insert a wisecrack about the referee being hired by MLS, but I won’t after seeing Jair Marrufo perform so well at the Olympics.)

Another classic scene from Wednesday night was the post-game press conference with Bob Bradley where the first four question were from Guatemalan reporters who were clearly going with the ‘Guatemala robbed by the referee’ storyline: "Coach, what do you think of a big team like the United States needing the referee to help it win a game against Guatemala?" "Do you think the result was fair?" "What did you think of Guatemala’s red card, which was obviously a make-up call for the USA red card?" "How much did the United States pay the referee?"

Okay, so that last one was made up, but the others were actually asked. To his credit, Bradley answered them with bland answers that didn’t provoke much reaction. I couldn’t help but imagine Bruce Arena facing those same questions and delivering a wity retort like, "Well, if Cabrera did that in the United States he’d probably get arrested. Here they’ll probably give him a medal."

Kudos go out to the American fans who attended the match. It was a modest-sized but vocal group that held its own despite being severely outnumbered. The best was hearing the Americans chant "Your not singing over there." You could hear it clear as day, but probably because Guatemalan fans were busy trying to figure out what the gringos were saying.

Those same fans were lent a helping hand by the U.S. Soccer Federation after the game. A group of more than 30 fans were stranded at the stadium after their transportation failed to show up. U.S. Soccer officials arranged to have the national team’s charter bus return to the stadium after dropping off the team to pick up the fans and take them back to the team hotel. It was a great gesture for a great contingent of fans.

That’s all for now, but before I go I will leave with this last thought. I know that the 1-0 win in ugly fashion won’t be enough for some fans who think that Kenny Cooper and Freddy Adu could have made it a 5-0 USA blowout if only they had been called up, but anyone who assumes that Cooper or Adu would have made this game anything but the tooth-and-nail street fight it was always destined to be just isn’t living in reality. Cooper and Adu’s chances will come. Wednesday night just wasn’t the time to throw in players who haven’t been in that kind of environment before.

What did you think of the game? Think the referee was on the take?(kidding). Were you happy with the match? Were you disappointed? Think the Americans got lucky? Think the Guatemalans have only themselves to blame?

Share your thoughts on the match below.


  1. With regards to Ruiz, I will not be happy until an MLS squad brings Geoff Aunger out of retirement to do his thing.

  2. i think one thing that we are overlooking is the position that players were put in. Yes, Pearce and Lewis did not have great matches but why would Bradley put them together. Niether has a lot of speed and he should have known that the right mid would. He also but Bradley and Mastro in the midfield who play the same position and neither can be a playmaker. I have never liked Donovan at right mid, he disappears, I like him either at attacking mid or a withdrawn forward. I also don’t like Dempsey up top. I think he is better on the wing where he is faced up more against defenders and not with his back to the goal.

    I think Bob Bradley had the right idea with the lineup but should have done better with the lineup. I think Pearce looked a little better with Beasley out there because of beasley’s speed so he was able to help out more.

  3. Wow, a lot to wade through.

    Just wanted to echo the comments on Donovan’s disappearance, Ching’s savvy,

    Bradley’s intelligents subbing, and the ref’s eagle eye on the red card attack on Lewis. I don’t know how the guy saw that so clearly. Did he just see the blood and work backwards from that? In any case, a great call on a split second play. That’s not to say he didn’t miss any calls, but that one was critical.

    Street-brawl-ugly, but three points pretty.

    I’m looking forward to Cuba.

  4. Ref was lost and had no control over game. Ruiz should be denutted in training sessions as he has no chance of surviving any 50/50 balls in the MLS. What a complete and total ass.

    As for the game, CONCACAF should have some minimum lighting standards. I was actually surprised that the lights did not dim further when the homers were shooting.

    I did see an ad in the Barbados Soccer magazine, looking for anyone with US family or willing to marry into a US family that can play left back. I am 41 and it looks like my EU passport could get me millions if I wanted to play in the Danish league as somehow Pearce was “promoted” to Germany and was lost in space the whole evening.

    Would anyone else want to see what would have happened with Ching and Donovan upfront and Clint out wide with a little space. Landon and Ching played together up front for the departed Quakes and Dempsey would have either earned a card or drawn a card from the hosts. Either way, there would have been some action for us.

    All that being said, a great result on a poor field on a short break from club teams.

  5. Point 1–I never said the US has “no style” (maybe those comments aren’t directed at me).  There’s a clear style out there–I just think we could do a little better by playing a more fluid, attacking game.Point 2–I agree that playing a road qualifier is a difficult task, but I think the quality of the US is high enough that we should be able to outplay the opposition.  Seriously–Guatemala won the battle for possession and more than doubled our shots on target (I believe it was GUA: 16(7), USA: 9(3)).Point 3–People keep saying things like, “We won, don’t freak out.”  Yes, we won, but I’m not just talking about this game.  I think we often struggle to attack effectively and I don’t like how heavily we rely on set pieces for goals.  Of course I’ll take the 3 points, but I don’t think it’s wrong to hope for a more effective attack in future matches.Point 4–Perhaps English fans wouldn’t be shocked by a 1-1 draw away to Georgia, just as I wouldn’t be shocked by a 1-1 draw away to Guatemala.  But I don’t think the English fans would be pleased with such a result.  And even if they won 1-0 and Georgia obviously outplayed them, I’m sure some concern would be expressed.I’m happy we got 3 points.  I’m just concerned that it was such a struggle.  And while I completely disagree that the ref handed us this game, they really did outplay us.  We were one decent Guatemalan finish away from a draw–we were a mediocre Tim Howard performance away from a loss.  Simply put, I hope we are more successful at controlling games in the future, no matter where we play.  Every team faces difficult circumstances and it’s great that we were able to pull out of it this time.  But this isn’t an isolated incident

  6. messed-up game but we got 3 points away in our toughest qualifier of this stage. now it’s time for coach bradley to bring along some of the youth. neither cuba nor trinidad will approach the hostile away atmosphere last night which was similar to azteca or saprissa.

    good: howard, onyewu, bocanegra, bradley, edu, beasley, ching

    poor: cherundolo, pearce, mastroeni, lewis, donovan, dempsey, hejduk

    Steve: “Ricardo Clark needs to be recalled for the hoem game aginst Guatemala. He’ll know what he’s there for.” LOL!!!

  7. I find it interesting that in Europe it seems they understand road games are tough in qualifying. If England ties Georgia on the road, 1:1 nobody is shocked.

    Why does anyone think that going to Guatemala, playing a team that loves to hack, surrounded by 25,000 hostile fans, some throwing bags of p*ss or discarded batteries is going to be a cakewalk?

  8. I think there is confusion in regards to tactics v. the overall level of play in this game. The overall level of play wasn’t good. Call me Capt. Obvious. It would have been great to see the US go in there an impose our will on them and just blow their doors off, but to me, that’s an unreasonable expectation for this game. I think that’s where there is much disagreement. I love that fans aren’t satisfied when the US plays poorly, and that it’s come to that point. But I think you’re selling the opposition short, who played about as well as they can, couple that with the conditions and all the stuff that’s been hashed over and there are very few, if any, teams that will get a result and do it in style in these circumstances.

    It was near impossible to tell what sort of tactics were employed during this game since things were beyond chippy. And after the red card, BB pulled the rights strings to get the right players in the game. And in that sense, his tactical approach is dead on. Find it hard to fault them, but again, we can agree to disagree.

    Any way, good discussion. Enjoy reading that rather than some of the reactionary stuff that is pointed on here.

  9. I had to watch the replay on the goal because I was sure the whistle had blown. I think the Guatemalans were standing around watching their teammate wrestle Onyewu to the ground. Onyewu was so much bigger than the Guatemalan defender that I couldn’t believe he lifted him off the ground before throwing him down. I don’t blame his teammates a bit for losing concentration and not following Bocanegro.

    I guess you reap what you sow.

  10. Javier great post.

    The GUAs are well below the talent level of the US. The only way they can stay with the US is to foul and foul some more. I say its about time Sunil Gulati does something about the idiot refs that CONCACAF uses. They allow repeated fouling and give US players yellow cards for talking…Chero and Dempsy.

    The game was a travesty. There was no soccer to be played. Our guys had to take the abuse and to their credit they did quite well. But there is NO REASON why the CONCACAF refs continue to allow mugging after mugging by untalented teams.

    Maybe they want to keep the game close but of course that is not their job.

  11. I have read most comments and there are many valid point. However, on one player I disagree whole heartedly. This player happens to be least effective forward in the MLS and I have tried to convicne his coach that he should allow him to play after the first 120 minutes and not before. The role of a center forward is not to ho;d the bal for other forwards to arrive to be a punching bag. The role of a forward, a center forward at that, is to put the darn ball in the back of the net. That is a role that Mr. Ching has been lacking miserably. You can correctly argue that he has scored 8 goals this season. However, 8 out of 50 golden opportunities is not a good odd. BB did a big favor taking him to the MNT and allow the Dynamo to score 4 goals in the first half without the presence of Ching.

    I also appreciated reading about “doing a Rico Clark to Ruiz”. If I were Don Gargber, I would ban him from MLS for life. He is derimental to the reputation of “Sport”. While I do not condone Mr. Clark’s outburst, I have had major problems withe the bahvior of Carlos. He truly belongs with the rest of Guatemalan players.

    Any word of wisdom as how I can be convincing to Kinnear to support “Dumping Ching Movement?”

  12. JK

    I think Freddy actually has a better chance of getting called into the Cuba game than he did the Guatemala game. Chances are though that the trio of Freddy jozy and Kenny isn’t going to happen during the group stage.

  13. A win is a win. When was the last time an ugly win didn’t get us three points? A win is a win, and I am content. Anyway, no matter what happens in a game, there will always be things to improve on at later times. Yes, the US needs to get better, but doesn’t everyone else?

    People who say the US has no soccer style need to calm down. It might be hard to see it executed, but it is there.

    Plus, what Guate did is exactly how you get a team out of their gameplan: play physical. If you play physical, you will liekly rattle a team and get them out of sync. I expected the game to be like this. I thought Guate would play physically and make it as ugly as possible so US would have little chances. Plus the crowd seemed electric. BUT WE GOT THE 3 VALUABLE POINTS! WHY BE UPSET AT A WIN?

    My last .02: I don’t think that young players like Cooper, Adu, Holden will be called up for the Cuba game. I think this exact roster will be selected. The Cubans won’t treat us well (maybe worse than in GUA). This game will be histroical, and the Cubans will certainly display how they feel about us at the game. Even though there were issues with the cards last night, an experienced roster should be used for such a game.

  14. I’m reading a lot of hating of how the U.S. played. Agreed they didn’t play well, the cards were stupid, and the win was ugly. On the other hand Howard played great. I don’t think I’m going out on a very big limb by saying Howard kept the U.S. in the game.

    The U.S. is a much more talented team than Guatemala although it didn’t show last night. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the U.S. plays a more finesse game than Guatemala, but typically the U.S. plays better soccer. The problem last night was Guatemala did everything they could with the fouls, and dives to disrupt the U.S. style of play and for the most part it worked. I would have liked to have seen more runs up the middle or on wings attacking the Guatemalan defense. However when the U.S. tried this Guatemala committed foul after foul and dive after dive and the ref seemed to be buying it. Despite the experience level of the U.S. players on the field Guatemalas tactics worked and the Americans were never able to put together an offense which effectively countered Guatemala.

    Playing against an opponent like Guatemala on a wet and rainy field the U.S. was never going to win pretty. I’ll take an ugly win because ultimately what matters most at this stage is the three points.

    Clearly the U.S. has work to do. Going back to Copa America I was not a Heath Pearce fan myself but in recent friendlies he seemed to playing well. Last night he got burnt – a lot. Maybe it’s from being out of form, but if there is a better left back would someone please name him. For those calling for Jonathan Spector he’s hurt and not playing for his club yet. Eddie Lewis also didn’t look good, but he’s shown quality in the past. Beasley also would typically be the first choice to start at left midfield, but he was coming off an injury and was a late addition. I don’t see Bobby Convey as a good option. Maybe Robbie Rogers is an option at left mid. I like Donovan in the middle not on the right wing. Donovan (when he’s mentally in a game)is great at running defenses. He needs to be less selfish or less afraid and take more shots. He also needs quality forwards to feed the ball to. In that respect I think benching Dempsey and Putting Kenny Cooper, Jozy Altidore, or Edson Buddle up top with Brian Ching would do worlds to improve the offense. Ching does do the dirty work and he plays well with his back to the goal. He may not always be the option needed at forward but he’s playing well enough to deserve a spot on this team. The right wing needs to be sorted out Dempsey just isn’t playing well and I’d rather see Steve Ralston despite his age than Dempsey on the right. Michael Bradley just does not impress me. He makes stupid decisions and usually commits stupid fouls. There has got to be someone else. I like Maurice Edu in the middle and possibly pairing him with Freddy Adu as an attacking midfielder might be a good option. Either way I think Adu has shown he’s ready for primetime and needs to be included in the full roster. As far as the coach goes well I’m on the fence with Bob Bradley. I want to see him succeed because I think it would be good for American soccer to have sucessful American coach. I sometimes wonder if the U.S. isn’t ready for an international coach that can take the U.S. to the next level.

    The U.S. has options and the talent is there to win games and climb in world standings. Even the team fielded last night playing in the states or in a neutral site would have probably spanked the Guatemalans with superior play. But it just wasn’t going to happen last night so the three points was good even if it was ugly. The win advanced the U.S. that much more in world cup qualifying. And that is what is important about last nights win.

  15. Wahleyed:

    You’re right that we don’t have an Arshavin-type…you could probably make the same argument about Turkey. But we are similar in that we are lacking international superstars and are heavily reliant on our domestic leagues.

    Defensive vs. Attacking style aside, I would hope we could adopt a style that would allow us to win either the possession battle or create more chances on goal (preferably both) than a team like Guatemala. It was undoubtedly a difficult, scrappy environment, but that only excuses so much, and I think some fans are using it as a crutch.

    As I said before, I might rip my hair out if we start fielding 4 defensive mids or play another no-true-striker formation as we did againt Barbados in the second leg, but I’ll still support the Nats.

    There was a time when our defensive style was truely fitting, in my opinion. But I think we’ve progressed a bit and are good enough to hold a bit more possession and create a few more chances on goal.

  16. Guys seriously. your being unfair. MB may not have had the best night tonight but look at it this way. You guys are always like “Give bradley a break he’s tired and needs to rest” but when some one like Adu is given a break you guys are like ” He needs to come in and get experience. what is BB thinking resting him?” Bradley is a young talent as well. we forget that since he’s become such a common starter. Adu is young talent and we have time to develop him. The whole ” Adu is going to lead us to the WC trophy” mentality some people have is a bit annoying now.

  17. Reston — I agree completely. MB does not have any more of the BB’s requisite experience, but is called in and consistently starts.


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