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Direct From Kansas City

Relief in Kansas City but Little Rest for the Victorious

The United States national team is through to the next round of 2014 World Cup qualifying, but that doesn't mean they can rest for too long. Soon it will be back to work.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
October 17, 2012
7:21 AM

KANSAS CITY–After plenty of tense moments during the third round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the United States can finally exhale.


The 3-1 win against Guatemala on the last day of the round propelled the squad to the top of the group and into the final stage of World Cup qualifying, but at times there was uncertainty as to whether the Americans would make it through.

“Obviously along the road there were some ups and downs, but that’s exactly how we expected it would be,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “At the end of it, to come away with a good win in front of a great crowd and now put ourselves in a position where we’re in the last stage of qualifying is a great feeling.”

The team struggled to get results on the road in its group, only mustering a draw against this same Guatemalan side during the away leg and losing in Jamaica. Those results, coupled with some uninspiring victories in both matches against Antigua & Barbuda, had the pressure ratcheted up for the final match day. Most American players, however, said the team remained cool during the process.

“I think certainly we didn’t want to put ourselves in that situation moving into the game, but we did. I think we came up with the right answer,” said Steve Cherundolo. “So it’s relief, but on the other hand I’ve been through this process a few times and understand that there is no easy path, so you have to kind of grind it out. We did that, so I was very happy to see those things coming back out in the team that have always made us strong in this region.”

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said he wasn’t necessarily relieved after clinching passage, but said he did know this stage wouldn’t be a cakewalk for the U.S.

“We expected a very difficult qualifying campaign, and that’s what it is. We discussed it a couple days ago, saying we didn’t necessarily want to let it get down to the wire in this first stage, but that’s how soccer works. If you give away a game like we did in Jamaica, then you have to pay the price for it for a little while, and you have to correct it. The guys corrected it,” he said.

Perhaps Klinsmann simply doesn’t have time for relief. With 2013 closing in, a year that will see the U.S. play their hexagonal matches and also contest a Gold Cup, the manager doesn’t have a lot of time to relax. Klinsmann said he hasn’t decided how to handle having both the qualification matches and the Gold Cup during the same year, saying it depends on players’ individual schedules, but he hinted there may be completely separate squads or at least very few players competing in both competitions.

Either way, World Cup qualification is the most important task at hand, and Klinsmann is saying all the right things about the difficulty of that proposition.

“The next round will be even tougher,” he said. “We have very, very good teams in there and every game will be a battle, every game will be a big fight and we are ready for that. It’s just the normal path that you go through and you take a lot of experience with that. Players grow, coaches learn.”

The players hope to avoid putting the team in the same situation it found itself in on Tuesday–or worse, one in which it doesn’t have control of its own fate.

“We’re excited to get to the next round, but we know that we’ve got to step up our game, and we know that we’ve got to be better away from home in the next round of qualifying,” said Clint Dempsey, who scored two of the United States’ goals Tuesday.

“We’ve got to make sure that we don’t let this opportunity go by, that we start out of the gates flying, get the right results and put ourselves in a position to qualify for the World Cup and not wait for the last game and need some results to go your way, that’s definitely a position that we don’t want to be in,” he said.

With 2013 looming, there’s not too much time to rest. For now, though, at least fans can draw in a long breath of air and let it out. The United States is through comfortably.

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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