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USMNT Notes: Team readies for underdog Belize, returning to the Pacific Northwest, and more

DaMarcus Beasley


PORTLAND, Ore.- Despite matching up in a tournament to decide a continent’s champion, Belize and United States are worlds apart when it comes to soccer.

Tuesday’s match will mark Belize’s debut in any soccer tournament that involves teams from outside Central America. Despite the fact that Belize’s population is approximately 1/1000th that of the U.S.`, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his squad are not overlooking their opponents.

“We expect a game where they probably come out in more of a defensive shape. We need to come out and open them up as early as possible,” Klinsmann said before his team’s practice Sunday afternoon at Jeld-Wen Field. “We expect a difficult game, but we are looking forward to it.

One key Klinsmann is looking for in Tuesday’s match, is that his team does not allow Belize to get comfortable and start believing they can hang with the heavily-favored American side.

“We can’t allow, in the game against Belize, to give them any opportunity,” Klinsmann said. ” You can’t miss chances in the early beginnings because then you chase your own game. There is no reason to underestimate any team in the Gold Cup.”

In their last six matches, Belize’s defense has been solid, having not allowed more than one goal in any match.

And while American captain DaMarcus Beasley knows that upsets happen, he is more concerned with how the U.S. plays than with what Belize will do.

“We’re going to play our game. We’re going to play the way we know how to play,” Beasley said. “The name of the game is scoring goals, so we want to do that as well. We want to start the tournament on a good foot.”

The match will not only mark Belize’s Gold Cup debut, but it will also be the first time the two teams have ever faced one another. Klinsmann, for one, is happy that a country with a population around 350,000 can play at a tournament such as the Gold Cup.

“I think it’s fascinating. I think it’s wonderful for Belize to get that opportunity to be part of the Gold Cup. They deserve it because they did well in the qualifiers that’s why they are here,” Klinsmann said. “We respect every nation coming into the Gold Cup.”


For the second time in a month, the U.S. will play a match in the Pacific Northwest, a region that has become known for its passion for soccer and its local MLS franchises.

“We are thrilled to come to Portland, come back to the Northwest,” Klinsmann said.  “Being here in Portland in a stadium that rocks when the Timbers play, we are looking forward to it.”

The match will mark the first time the U.S. men have played a match in Portland since a 2-0 victory over Kuwait on May 24, 1998.

One major reason for the lack of US men’s games at Portland has been Klinsmann’s hesitation to play on artificial turf. While Seattle’s June World Cup Qualifier was played on a grass field that was put on top of turf, Tuesday’s match will be played on Jeld-Wen’s field turf. Klinsmann said he is happy to play on any field, in any conditions, but “if I have the choice, I always go with natural grass.”

No matter the field, the players are expecting a packed house when the team takes the field Tuesday.

“I’ve heard of the overwhelming support in this region of the country,” Oguchi Onyewu said. “I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it on Tuesday.”


The U.S. arrived in Portland late Saturday, the day after an impressive 6-0 victory against Guatemala in San Diego. And while the game was the most lopsided victory for the national team in that last five years, Klinsmann isn’t reading too much into the final score.

“We know how to judge the result, we know how to judge that warmup game. We are thrilled that 25,000 people came to San Diego and saw six goals and saw a team that is now trying to bond, trying to build chemistry and trying to prove a point in the next three weeks in a wonderful tournament,” Klinsmann said. “Therefore, it was a good warmup game but now reality kicks in, the Gold Cup starts and we are all excited.”

The match seemed to turn in the second half after the halftime insertion of midfielders Stuart Holden and Mix Diskerud. Despite not scoring any goals in the match, the duo had a major influence in controlling the tempo and pace.

Holden has already moved on from Friday’s match, which was his 20th international cap.

“We had a great win against Guatemala the other night in a friendly, but now, everyone knows what can happen in tournaments, and we have to make sure we are focused 100 percent from the get-go,” Holden said.


  1. I was planning to make a joke about this quote “In their last six matches, Belize’s defense has been solid, having not allowed more than one goal in any match.” by reviewing who they had played. some are minnows, but only Nicaragua on that list is a real real minnow. T&T, Honduras, CR, El Salvador, Guatemala. I don’t know if those were B or C teams they faced of course… Still a surprise. 4 goals in 6 games against those teams. Now they also only scored 2, both against Nicaragua. Still, I could see the US leading 1-0 at half and ending up only winning 2 or 3 nothing. A blowout is also possible depending on how JK decides to play and how the ball bounces.

    • The US Gold Cup team needs to win with 5+ goals against all the Minnow teams. The need to make statements and the US Gold Cup players need those margins to make JK say Hmmmmm, if they are hoping to crack the WC roster.

  2. A bad grass field is always be better than turf. There is no joint soreness or turf rash on grass. You ever play on turf on a hot day in the summer? Grass is the only way to go for international competitions.

    • Do you remember Jamaica in the Hex quali’s? I’d take turf over that field ANY day. Yes turf is hot, but at least the ball rolls consistently.

      • I would love another route. However, history suggests that the USA almost never scores high two games in a row, even if the opponents are full fledged minnows. The are extremely consistent in their inconsistency. My prediction is a frustrating, painful to watch 1-0 win for the US. Slop goal by Gomez from inside the goal box.

  3. Holden should be put on every USMNT squad from now ’til his 100th birthday — if for no other reason than for his positive attitude and infectious enthusiasm!

  4. “Despite the fact that Belize’s population is approximately 1/1000th that of the U.S.`, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his squad are not overlooking their opponents.”

    Oh, come on. Not the population argument again. It’s not like China and India always play in the WC final.

    • Population is a real thing in determining how good a country can be at soccer. It’s not the only factor obviously but the more people you have the more talented players you are actually capable of producing. The only country with a very large population that emphasizes soccer is Brazil which happens to be the most successful soccer country. The book soccernomics breaks it down in much more detail. Basically larger countries that put an emphasis on soccer do better ie brazil and Germany vs England, Portugal, have an advantage against countries with smaller populations. Other factors like GDP matter as well but there is strong correlation between population and success at international soccer.

      • How do you define “emphasize soccer”? The USSR, for example, had a population greater than Brazil’s and never won much in soccer in spite of being soccer crazy. Why has tiny Uruguay achieved so much and large Mexico so little? Both countries emphasize soccer probably about equally.

        Surely, you can’t dismiss the size completely; however, I feel it’s a minor factor.

    • Wasn’t trying to make an argument. I was surprised to learn that Belize had such a small population (350K). Just thought it was an interesting tidbit.

      • North America has some of the strongest disparities between neighbors in the world.… but all you need is 11 (maybe 18) no compeat.

        Objectively i see a 4-0 US win but Belize is certainly talking this game up.. might be a difficult gritty 1-0 win for US

      • Nice to see you replying to comments, Mike. Don’t know why morons took population the wrong way

      • It’s as if we’re playing against Arlington Texas. The whole country would crack our top 50 cities….

      • Yup lot’s of land and rainforest and keys. Small population considering that Belize is more that twice the size of Jamaica and Jamaica’s population is 2.8 million with it’s Capital Kingston’s population alone at over 900,000 almost 3 times that of the entire country of Belize

    • Thought Panama looked pretty tough, and a team that may give us trouble if we see them in the knockout rounds. Their attackers are speedy enough to get behind our CB and skilled enough to do damage. Their defense was pretty stout as well, though Mexico had chances when they pushed. Really no idea what to expect from Mexico if we face them. They have skilled players but looked so disjointed in that game. They could either come together and be a tough opponent or fall to pieces and crash out of the tourney early.

      • Panama was disgraceful. I have not seen so many fake injuries in a very long time. for the most part their finishing was pathetic as well, they could have easily had a couple more goals against Mexico if not for horrible finishing. I dont see them giving the US much trouble other than penalty kicks from their never ending dives.

      • If Panama’s time wasting bothered you, then brace yourself for the rest of the tourney, because any of the concacaf teams that take a lead on the US or Mexico will be doing the exact same thing. They will probably do it for a draw.

  5. Any word on well the this particular artificial surface plays? Will Holden’s past knee issues come in to play when deciding how many minutes he sees?
    We all know turf isn’t too good on the knees.
    GO USA!!!

    • Good point. At this point in the tournament, cycle, preseason and comeback, I wonder if Holden goes 90 on the turf field. If I was Bolton i’d put a call in to Juergen ..

    • Honestly the field turf is really a non-issue. Astro turf developed a bad reputation because it was basically carpet placed over concrete that had seams in it. Now high quality field turf (which jen-weld has) is so much more advanced that there isn’t really any difference in the impact it has on the body compared to real grass. The reputation from previous generations of artificial turf remains which can create a psychological issue but it’s actually just as safe.

      On the other hand field turf tends to play a bit faster than natural grass which should actually help the USMNT as they are more skilled and are likely to attempt to place quick 1-2 touch connections.

      • I played on fieldturf towards the end of my playing days and felt like it was a hard surface which, while not as abrasive on skin as astroturf, was not ideal for beaten up joints. It does play more like grass but it’s still fake turf with higher and faster bounces. It is an improvement on turf but it is not grass and lacks the softness of a grass field.

        Assuming we progress each time, we should play only two games on turf, tomorrow and then Cowboys Stadium for the final. Though there is an injury risk each game IMO from turf, unless he has chronic structural joint issues I think Holden could handle a couple isolated games on turf. I think when you do the risk assessment is more if they’ve had a prior turf issue or if they are older or if they have a chronic problem…..or if he was signing up to play in Portland a la Feilhaber in New England or Reyna in NY.

        But the idea that Holden is equal risk is a bit silly, I think anyone with a musculoskeletal injury is at risk for repeat or reaggravation. His OWN HISTORY suggests so. Now I hope he comes back fine but it’s naive to act like we can ignore history and have no concern at a reconstructed knee on turf. You just have to hope this is more Peterson than O’Brien, and medical science has improved chances.

    • Holden’s knee issues resulted from physical trauma imparted by other players. He doesn’t have naturally problematic knees. I don’t see any reason he’d be worried about the turf.

    • If it does present a problem for Holden, then let’s hope that Klinsmann starts Diskerud in the spot Torres’ played against Guatemala.

      • +1 to this!

        Torres with Holden or Mixx will be a completely different look. Beckermann just doesn’t think ahead quick enough to put himself into supportive space on the pitch. I’d love to see Torres run out with Mixx to start and Holden come on as a 2nd half sub.

        I’m still worried about his knee injury. If my memory serves correct, his knee wasn’t reconstructed, but rather a fracture to the base of his knee (medial/lateral condyles, google it) that required several microfracture surgeries. Essentially he’s got a dimple on the base of his femur from my understanding that causes him pain, likely from “locking up”. In my experience with turf (and several knee injuries) is it tends to grab to cleats a bit more, which considering his injury is what worries me the most.

        Watching him and Mixx vs Guatemala put a smile on my face. Truly showed his quality and both their footy IQ as they put themselves in the right positions defensively and supported those around them when we had the ball.

  6. reading between the lines I think Klinsman isn’t going to start Diskrudd or Holden. Those comments about judging the Guatemala game sound like he doesn’t think the disparity in goals between the 1st and 2nd half had much to do with the personnel changes he made. This is unfortunate because if you really want to score goals, you should have disk and Holden in center because they have the most skill/ability to connect on tight passes through the middle, and you should start Shea on the wing to give you width and dangerous service from the outside. Here is the line up i’d like to see.

    Gomez– Donovan



    Any of the goalies

  7. Mexico and Canada lost. I am probably more surprised at the Canadian loss to Martinique than at Mexico’s loss to Panama. The present Panamanian team is decent and Mexico can’t seem to win even with their first team, a loss by the second string is not so much of a surprise.

    The US will have to avoid early mistakes that can give Belize hope. I expect a lot of possession for the US and just hope that they can turn that into goals while giving up few counter-attacking opportunities (I’m not sold on Onweyu’s and Goodson’s ability to stop 1v1s in the open field, but they should do well in dealing with crosses from a more patient build-up and in clogging the middle if the Belize attack slows down the play).

    • My concern is Chepo probably won’t last beyond the tournament and they’ll start fixing issues for the qualis.

    • I think the heat really got to the Hosers. 100+ air temp at kickoff and probably 10 degrees more on the field. To the Caribbean pirates 100 is a spring day. They just didn’t close down to Martinique attack and loose marking allowed to many shots on goal. Martinique was not lucky, they were pretty good in the heat.

  8. I think the match turned on the fact that Guatemala got tired. Holden and Diskerud played very well but let’s be honest, the game was a domination from the start and the fact that it took a while to score goals is simply the way games like this go when one team is in a defensive orientation. It just takes time to wear them down and figure out the holes.

    • I thought it was a pretty even first half. Torres and Corona might have played a fresher unit but I think you’re overlooking that Mixx was elusive on the dribble where Corona got shoved off the ball, and Holden was precise where Torres was not.

      I also think if you look at the history of Mixx and Holden with the team, they are entitled to the benefit of the doubt. You’re talking like this is Boca or Reyna here where their tenure earns them slack. Corona is a newbie still very much on the show me end of things, and Torres, while an integral part of the 2010 team (but so was Holden), has been out of favor for years now. Holden has always been seen as promising when healthy, and has actual production with the team in competitive games that Corona and Torres lack. Even Mixx with his South Africa assist and Russia equalizer is underrated for his actual contributions to the unit; he just has so long between calls that people forget by the next one what he did last time.

      So I’m more inclined to treat this like Belgium and say Klinsi started some of the wrong people, make the switches as appropriate, and trust what I saw, which was like a light switch went on for the offense.

      Or you can bang your head against the wall with Corona and Torres some more.

      • “I also think if you look at the history of Mixx and Holden with the team, they are entitled to the benefit of the doubt. You’re talking like this is Boca or Reyna here where their tenure earns them slack. ”

        Actually, TIV, I did say they played well and I don’t quite get the reference to anyone earning slack (maybe I’m just missing your point). Additionally, I wasn’t really saying the Holden (and maybe Diskerud) shouldn’t be starters.

        What I saw was that the playing conditions Stu and Mixx faced were quite a bit easier than were faced in the first 1/2 hour of the game. The pressure had fallen off.


      • A bit more specifically, I think it was easier for Holden to be precise because he had more room and it was easier for Mixx to be elusive because they weren’t closing down as well.

    • Guatemala got tired? Why? It’s not like they played the day or two before, or the first half’s pace was anything to tire from.

      • Well, they didn’t have the ball much and were trying to press the ball in the first 30 minutes. That will tire out team.

    • the first thirty minutes was not exactly dominating. even the last 15 of the first half was hardly “dominant.”

    • I think that would be impossible, in all honesty. There is too much attacking firepower on this squad to get blanked by any team in this tournament.

    • ditto. i’m with klinsi that the USMNT should not be playing on turf. plenty of stadiums in this country that are suitable and natural grass.

    • Turf in and of itself, or worse, grass rolled over turf? I dislike turf but I almost want to say that I’d prefer turf over rolled sod, because the bounces are closer to natural. I mean, that goal EJ scores on Panama, on a normal field, the diagonal ball takes about two more high bounces and goes over the endline, or he mis-traps it.

    • ditto. i’m with klinsi that the USMNT should not be playing on turf. plenty of stadiums in this country that are suitable and natural surface.

      • Herr Klinsmann & USMNT willkommen to Soccer City USA (Portland, Oregon) and have a great game in our very soccer friendly stadium tomorrow night!! Yes, the turf field is not the best but this game is for the very supportive Portland SOCCER fans. Also, the US defense needs to be prepared for the very fast turf surface.

      • Waht was our most recent record big romp? Probably the WCQ against Barbados 8-0. Barbados is ranked above Belize, so I’m thinking 8-10+ over what Belize score (probably 0). Running up the score is acceptable in a tournament as it counts towards a possible tiebreaker down the road. Also add to the fact that some players will be salivating over a Golden Boot award.

        I think anything less that a total spanking, questions will be asked.

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