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Direct From Kansas City

Flowing Attack Helps U.S. to Guatemala Win

The Americans beat Guatemala thanks to three goals–one from captain Carlos Bocanegra and two from Clint Dempsey. To hear them tell it, scoring multiple times was the plan all along.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
October 16, 2012
7:41 PM
KANSAS CITY–After a defensive lapse put the United States down 1-0 early in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Guatemala, the American attack picked up and paved the way to a comfortable 3-1 win.

From the opening whistle, the U.S. looked to press Guatemala and control the match by dominating possession and passing well.

“I thought we started well, and we were pressuring them quite a bit, got some chances," midfielder Graham Zusi said. "We were a little caught off guard with their goal, but we responded very well and not only got the equalizing goal but a couple more to add on."

The fluid attacking play in the victory, which secured first place in the group and a trip to the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, provided a vast contrast to the plodding soccer the U.S. played at times just days earlier in a narrow 2-1 win in Antigua & Barbuda.

“It takes time,” Zusi said of building an understanding with his fellow attackers. “I’m constantly learning their tendencies and every time we get a chance to train together, every time we get a chance to play together I think that understanding will grow.”

American fans can only hope it does. Zusi and Eddie Johnson, a player typically deployed as a forward by the Seattle Sounders, confused the Guatemalan defense by hitting on the flanks while Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez provided targets for Zusi and Johnson to partner with.

“I think it’s a great option now to have with Eddie that he can play wide, but he can also play up front, to have both ways of doing it,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “It’s exciting to see that. I think that Graham Zusi brings an element into this group that, technically he’s so gifted. He keeps the ball. His passing is accurate.”

Klinsmann called the attacking play one of the team’s strengths on the evening. “They wanted to keep the tempo high, they wanted to come off the wings, they wanted to combine, they wanted to keep the ball, sometimes even a little bit longer maybe than you want to see it but it’s better if we have it than they have it,” he said.

Another aspect Klinsmann would’ve preferred not to see was the early goal allowed by his back line. Though the nervous feelings caused by Carlos Ruiz’s opening goal were short-lived, the defense will still be a question mark going forward.

“It improved a lot throughout the game, but obviously it didn’t make me very happy,” said Klinsmann of the defense’s early mistake. “We actually trained (for a similar situation) yesterday, specifically, and then still it happened. It’s soccer, anything can happen. We can train 100 times and still it will happen. I was obviously not happy with it, but then Carlos (Bocanegra) and (Geoff Cameron) and especially Danny (Williams), they built that triangle that we needed in order to deal with Carlos Ruiz who is just a warrior out there.”

The win makes sure the U.S. will head to the hex as a group winner, and makes for one less dreaded Central American road trip for the team to make during what will be a busy 2013. Klinsmann said he was happy with the message the strong win sent to future opponents.

“It is definitely a good way to end that first round and advance and make it clear that we were the number one team in that group,” Klinsmann said. “With every game, you try to earn respect. That’s what you do. Every friendly, every qualifying game, every competition you try always to earn respect.”

Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) is a freelance writer based in Phoenix and the co-host of MLS in 30 on NASN.TV.

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