We know this match won’t be fixed in advanced. Both the U.S. and Guatemala advance if they draw. This is not Italy. The result won’t be arranged in advance. What happens in these games is the focus shifts, even subconsciously, to not losing. Tactics, regardless of the rhetoric, are more conservative. Players are tight and cautious. This exacerbates as the game progresses. If it is tied late in the second half, lock it down. Teams may not set out to play for a draw, but sometimes it just happens.
How the U.S. Advances. The U.S. goes through with a win or a draw. They advance with a loss if Jamaica loses or draws to Antigua and Barbuda or Jamaica wins but does not pass the U.S. in goal difference. The U.S. has a (+3) advantage entering the match. ESPN’s SPI (via Sportscenter) gives the U.S. a 96.9 percent chance of advancing.
Lingering Questions. Klinsmann has obtained results, but in a disconcerting fashion. The transition to a possession attacking game has been scattershot and ineffective thus far. It was not working against an archipelago with few true professionals. The purpose of playing that style is to exert more control and create more chances. The result has been the U.S. scoring fewer goals and conceding more, against teams they should dominate. The Americans had collective scores of 14-3 and 13-3 at this stage in qualifying for 2010 and 2006 respectively. This round? It is 8-5 with one match remaining.
Struggling within the Hex would be worrisome. The U.S. is struggling just to get there. One of the few bright spots, this year, has been Geoff Cameron’s emergence. It’s helpful, given the lack of competent U.S. central defenders, but even a revamped back line will be exposed if the U.S. can’t find a midfield combination that can both pass and provide adequate cover.
History: Since 1990 World Cup qualifying, the U.S. is 11-0-6 against Guatemala. In home games, the U.S. has a 10-0-1 record and has outscored Guatemala 23-2. History, however, has not helped the U.S. in this qualifying round.
Prediction: This team likes to make things difficult. Early score by U.S. Guatemala gets a late equalizer. Both go through with a 1-1 draw.
[Photo via Presswire]