Can the U.S. Rebound Against Guatemala?

USMNT

No World Cup?

Friday’s qualifier against Guatemala was supposed to end with a comfortable United States’ victory. Guatemala had other plans. The Central American side went toe-to-toe with the Stars and Stripes and came out with a well-deserved 2-0 victory. This was the first time that the U.S. had ever lost to Guatemala in World Cup qualifying history. At times, Jürgen Klinsmann’s side looked unmotivated, rusty, and pretty much ready to get out of the Estadio Mateo Flores as soon as possible.

In the second half, the Americans showed a little bit more life, but their finishing was borderline atrocious. With players like Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore leading the line, fans would have expected a better performance in front of goal, but on several occasions the best the strikers could muster was a shot right at Paulo Motta. Realistically, the U.S. could have very easily gotten back into the match on Friday night, but they lacked a killer instinct and that cost them dearly.

In my opinion, the attack will once again be the determinant factor for whether or not the U.S. can secure an invaluable victory on Tuesday. After taking the victory back home, and without their most experienced striker, Carlos Ruiz, on the trip, the Guatemalans will most likely park the bus in Columbus. Will Dempsey, Altidore and Bobby Wood be able to find the back of the net this time around?

For me, the most dangerous man on the pitch for the U.S. wasn’t one of the forwards. It was Portland Timbers’ midfielder Darlington Nagbe. After his introduction at the intermission, Nagbe quickly became the focal point of the American attack. His decisive passing in the final third helped set up some amazing chances for his teammates, but none of them were able to apply a finishing touch.

The 25-year-old’s decision to switch allegiances from his native Liberia to the U.S. earlier this year sparked plenty of excitement among Major League Soccer fans. Nagbe, who can play down the middle or even on the wing, has been one of the most exciting players in the league with his passing accuracy and creativity on the ball. Look for him to get the starting nod ahead of Mix Diskerud who was far from impressive on Friday.

With Nagbe being my man to watch on the American side, the Guatemalan spotlight has to be on Paulo Motta. Motta was far-and-wide the most important man on the pitch for Guatemala on Friday and without him between the pipes the match could have ended very differently. The 33-year-old twice denied Clint Dempsey and Alejandro Bedoya, and his kick save against Jozy Altidore in the final ten minutes of the match zapped whatever momentum the U.S. had to close out the match.

You could see Motta’s confidence growing after each of these vital saves, and chances are he’ll be going into Tuesday’s match with the belief that he can once again shut down the U.S. attack. I think that he’ll be under even more pressure in Columbus with Klinsmann and Co. desperately seeking a win to keep their qualifying hopes alive, and to potentially save the German manager’s job. Can he match this highlight reel performance, or was it just a fluke that made for a fantastic upset?

To wrap it all up, I think that Klinsmann will field a different lineup than the one he had down in Guatemala with more emphasis on creativity and attack. Nagbe, and Altidore should feature from the start with new boy Christian Pulisic possibly making his debut under the right circumstances. Friday’s loss should spark a fire under the Americans and hopefully they’ll be able to muster up a more inspired performance in Columbus. Final Score: U.S. 2-1 Guatemala

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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