Friendly match report: US 4-0 Guatemala

The US Men’s National Team brushed aside Guatemala 4-0 in front of 44,835 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN Friday evening.

For the Americans’ final warm-up before the Gold Cup, Jurgen Klinsmann sent out a mobile, athletic and flawed side. Brad Guzan was in goal behind Tim Chandler, Omar Gonzalez, John Anthony Brooks and Fabian Johnson. DeAndre Yedlin and Graham Zusi provided the width in midfield around Mix Diskerud and Michael Bradley. Clint Dempsey flitted between the lines and Jozy Altidore sat upfront.

First half

The match started slowly, with Guatemala looking to play quickly off of turnovers but lacking the movement to pull away from the American defenders. The US returned fire through Yedlin and Chandler, who used their speed to pressure the Guatemalans and push into space when Bradley had the ball.

Fabian Johnson was also active up the left, with Zusi drifting inside (and often taking space away from Dempsey).

In the 17th minute, Jozy Altidore was hauled down as he raced into the box to meet a cross. The striker stepped up to take the penalty he earned but saw it easily blocked by a diving XXXXXX.

Undeterred, the Americans continued to attack up the right flank, as the Guatemalan defense failed to adjust to Yedlin’s early runs. In the 19th minute, Yedlin beat his man to the endline and laid a cross into the box. No US players got near the ball, but even without heavy pressure Carlos Castrillo managed to head the ball backwards into his own goal.

In the 24th minute, Diskerud dinked the ball into the box where Altidore knocked it down for Bradley. The bouncing ball forced the newly minted captain onto his left foot and his low half volley spun wide of the near post.

Guatemala almost responded in the 33rd minute. A free kick deep in the left channel was taken short, and the resulting cross from the left wing slunk into the box, where Guzan and Lopez arrived simultaneously. The American goalie eventually smothered the loose ball.

The US was hoping to double their lead in the 44th when Dempsey was hacked down in the middle of the pitch 25 yards from goal. Hoping to rip the netting like a referee’s cardbook, Dempsey could only curl the ball into Paulo Motta’s hands.

Second half

Possession, shot numbers and, eventually, the scoreline all provided evidence of the US’s growing dominance in the second half.

Gyasi Zardes, Greg Garza, and Ventura Alvarado replaced Graham Zusi, Fabian Johnson, and Omar Gonzalez to start the frame, and Zardes quickly proved too much for Guatemala to handle. The LA Galaxy attacker zipped up the left channel in the 56th minute, split two defenders, and sprinted through the lines to receive a throughball from Dempsey. Only a smart challenge from Motta prevented Altidore from slotting home the cross.

Two minutes later, the Americans doubled their lead off a blast from the left foot of Tim Chandler. Motta’s ill-advised long throw upfield was broken up by Ventura and Diskerud played the loose ball out to Yedlin. Under pressure, the midfielder pulled it back to Chandler, who tucked inside and curled his shot into the far post.

In the 61st minute, Alfredo Morales and Tim Ream came on for Diskerud and Brooks. Morales quickly made his mark, but that mark was on Marco Pappa’s leg. The young midfielder swung through the Sounders’ man’s suspended leg, handing Guatemala a free kick from 20 yards out.

After the free kick was partially cleared, Jose Contreras, on at halftime for Jairo Arreola up top, blasted a volley over the bar.

Yedlin and Zardes continued to use their speed to dominate Guatemala. Yedlin chased Altidore down the right and played a one-two with the big striker, who sent a cross far post just in front of Zardes.

Chris Wondolowski replaced Altidore in the 68th minute. Five minutes later, Michael Bradley was yanked down in the box. This time Dempsey stepped forward and casually plunked the ball behind Motta’s dive.

Former Union striker Carlos Ruiz received a caution in the 74th minute.

Ruiz almost earned an assist in the 84th minute but Contreras blasted his knockdown well over the goalframe from six yards away.

Wondolowski got on the scoresheet in the 87th minute, following Zardes in after the LA man latched onto Dempsey’s dink over the top. Zardes did phenomenally well to get to the endline and push the ball back for Wondolowski to slam home.

The 4-0 final scoreline was justified.

Three thoughts

1. Speed is still speed. Guatemala let Michael Bradley have too much space and the veteran midfielder hit bullseyes behind for Yedlin throughout the first half. Yedlin and Tim Chandler offer so much speed up the right that their chaotic defending can be forgiven against weaker sides. But while Fabian Johnson picks and chooses his forays forward with precision, Chandler is like a moth to light when he sees an opening. Yedlin’s covering varied from very good to absent, which highlights how one of the US’s biggest advantages could quickly turn into a weakness.

2. John Anthony Brooks continues to look more comfortable on the ball and as part of a full back line. The young defender was far better than his partner, Omar Gonzalez, who found himself lost in space when Diskerud left the center of the park. The centerbacks did a very good job organizing next to fullbacks who were bombing forward and behind a pair of midfielders who spent more time looking for space than closing it down.

3. Gyasi Zardes continues to show his quality. Right now, Zardes can play the Scottie Pippen role as well as anyone wearing the American jersey. He doesn’t have the selfish, bright-lights game of Dempsey or the body control and power of Altidore, but he has a parts of both. Zardes’ speed will always stand out, but the way he uses that speed to create space then find teammates is more impressive. There is none of the Aaron Lennon game in Zardes’ arsenal. He pushes his defender back and looks to connect. Call it a benefit of playing with Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, call it good coaching by Bruce Arena, or simply call it maturity, Zardes is the best wide playmaker on the Gold Cup roster when he is confident. Is that necessarily… a good thing for the US?


  1. el pachyderm says:

    Tim Chandler…proof positive that no matter who is at the helm…US Soccer continues to have a head scratching fixation with speed over skill- fleet feet over brain.
    The first time I saw him play for national team I thought wow this guy is fast and dynamic then I watched him play and realized he is an utter liability on the field.
    Greg Garza is twice the player and I am glad he was a late addition to Gold Cup squad. Hopefully Chandler only sees the MNT field against the likes of lesser competition and then soon enough not at all.
    What do I know- I’m just a pick up hack.

    • Great One says:

      Chandler is a consistent starter for JK and will most likely play every minute of the gold cup. I do however agree with you. While this was one of his better games, he consistently is caught out of position and gets beat often

  2. Um, did you see Chandler’s strike? You know the point if the game is to score more goals than the other guy, right Pachy?

    • I do not deny the moments – my struggle is with the overall body of work. I concede the point though.

    • pragmatist says:

      It was a great strike, but let’s not overlook it was his first ever for the USMNT. If he hits the ball like that on a more regular basis, then the narrative changes. Until then, he’s not our best option.

  3. Guatemala is on about the same level as Harrisburg, so lets not get too excited. A good attacking winger will eat Yedlin alive so his defensive liabilities are more serious than his offensive contributions. Bradley is still mediocre in his position, still not controling the flow of the game well. Altidore continues to underwhelm.el pachy is spot on with his observation. Still hard to judge if this team has anything special.

    • True, Guatemala is not an elite (or even very good/average) team but the US did what they are supposed to do against lesser sides and dictated play to win 4-0.

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