Tensions and doubts ran high as the USMNT took on Guatemala in the second leg of their World Cup Qualifiers in Columbus, Ohio last Tuesday. But after a historic loss in Guatemala five days earlier, this time on home soil, the U.S. Men were able to secure a convincing 4-0 win after Clint Dempsey broke the dam in the 12th minute with a first goal off a rather unique assist from Gyasi Zardes. In the ensuing deluge of goals, a relentless display in confidence from the players put a stopgap on a free-flowing rhetoric from many fans and media.
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Geoff Cameron headed home the second goal for the U.S. off a clean cross from Michael Bradley in the 35th minute leaving the home crowd illuminated with confidence heading into halftime. It had been a stunning display in which both Guatemala and the U.S. switched tactics and scorelines from their earlier encounter by halftime. Los Chapines had not started two of their most dangerous players and troublemakers for the U.S., Carlos Ruiz and Marcos Pappa, and the U.S. made formation changes that put many players back into their most comfortable positions. Geof Cameron moved to central defense from right back. DeAndre Yedlin was put in right back from midfield. Defender Steve Birnbaum, midfielders Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman, were slotted into the lineup along with goalkeeper Brad Guzan who was already set to rotate with Tim Howard. Left out in this match were Omar Gonzalez, Michael Orozco, Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya.
In response to the reversal of fortunes, Guatemala brought on veteran Carlos Ruiz in at the half, however in under half a minute, Graham Zusi scored with a tremendous strike to make it 3-0, stunting the visitors. Hometown hero, Ethan Finlay, making his debut in a World Cup Qualifying match, netted a goal which was ruled offside but minutes later, the U.S. responded with a Jozy Altidore goal, closing out the scoring in the 89th at 4-0. It was Altidore’s 34th, a record tying him with Eric Wynalda for international goals. A sense of urgency pushed the U.S. one point ahead of Guatemala and into second place in their qualifying group. There are two games left to play in September and the top two teams will advance to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
- 17-year-old Christian Pulisic made his national team debut in the 81st minute becoming the youngest American in a QCQ, and in doing so, became ineligible to play for Croatia.
- Michael Bradley is suspended for the St. Vincent match after getting his second yellow card of the round in the 72nd minute.