Tomorrow night the US Men’s National Team faces Guatemala in their final game in this stage of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Currently the US and Guatemala are tied in the standings with 10 points and only need a tie to advance. However, if one team does come away with a win, that opens the door for Jamaica to move on depending on the goal differential.
While playing for a tie is not ideal, it does give the US something to fall back on if they are unable to continue their undefeated streak at home. The US defense is going to have its hands full dealing with Carlos Ruiz who has scored in each of the past three games. With the future of the Americans’ participation in the next World Cup on the line, Tim Howard will not be sitting for Brad Guzan to finally get off the bench. The backline, however, will see some changes.
Steve Cherundolo has proven himself to the most consistent defender for the US and will not be going anywhere. On the other side, the US will still be without Fabian Johnson. Carlos Bocanegra had trouble playing on the outside against Antigua & Barbuda and would not have an easier time matching the speed on the wings against Guatemala so expect him to slide into the middle to make way for Michael Parkhurst to try his hand on the left. Parkhurst may not be much faster, but any improvement is better than nothing. With Bocanegra moving to the middle Clarence Goodson will probably end up on the bench, but neither Goodson or Geoff Cameron have performed all that well.
Danny Williams also had a rough game in Antigua, but with Jermaine Jones picking up another caution when he came in as a sub Williams is probably going to get another chance. Klinsmann still has Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu, but if neither player got a chance playing against the weaker A&B, I wouldn’t expect to see either of them in the starting 11 unless Klinsmann uses a more defensive-minded lineup. Michael Bradley will join Williams in the center of the midfield and hopefully better field conditions will allow him to organize the attack better.
With the game taking place at Livestrong Sporting Park, home of Sporting Kansas City, I can’t imagine that Graham Zusi won’t start in front of his home crowd out on the right. The left side is a bit more of a question. Sacha Kljestan’s play against A&B provided a much needed spark to a US side that was seeing a number of players start to fade out in the second half. Since Guatemala is playing away and only needs a tie, there is a chance that they may sit back and give the US more opportunity to control the ball so having another natural midfielder should help the US break down the defense. However, in order for Kljestan to get the start, Klinsmann will have to sit one of his attacking trio from Antigua.
The two-goal performance from Eddie Johnson made him the second-most obvious starter next to Howard in goal. In Antigua he played out on the left flank, but since both of his goals came off crossing balls I would expect him to play in the center to serve as more of a target man. The other two US attackers, Herculez Gomez and Clint Dempsey, both fell short of expectations and could end up sitting out for a true midfielder against Guatemala. Gomez’s inability to get a single shot on goal and numerous bad touches make him more likely than Dempsey to sit, but his active and aggressive style will be missed.
Kick-off for the game is scheduled for 6 PM CST and will be televised on ESPN2