World Cup Qualifying Preview: Guatemala v USMNT

On Friday, the US Men’s National Team begins in earnest their qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the first of two games back-to-back against Guatemala. Friday’s match in Guatemala City (10 pm, beIN Sports, NBC Universo) will be followed on Tuesday by the return match in Columbus, Ohio (7 pm, ESPN2, UniMas, UDN). If the US can manage to win both games, it will be almost assured of moving into the final round of qualifying.

Things are getting serious

And the roster reflects it, with fewer new faces than recents squads have shown. 15 of the 26 players called in represented the US at the 2014 World Cup. Clint Dempsey is back with the team after being given some time off to focus on club soccer, and joins up with the current crop of veterans like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. No previously uncapped players are currently in camp, though several have never before appeared in a World Cup qualifier.

Men in form

Several of the players called in by Klinsmann are in excellent form. Alejandro Bedoya is on fire for his club team, Nantes, in France’s Ligue 1, as is Bobby Wood, who plays for Union Berlin in Germany’s second division. John Brooks is also playing well for Hertha Berlin in the German first tier. Yet another American in Germany, Fabian Johnson is helping push Borussia Moenchengladbach up the Bundesliga table.

Attack, attack, attack

For years, the US has been a solid, even stolid team, but often lacking in offensive flair or prowess. Of late, if Altidore wasn’t feeling it, or Dempsey couldn’t pull something out of his hat, there was little the US could do but hope for set pieces. But look at that previous paragraph—Bedoya, Wood, Johnson—all are attacking players being effective in competitive European leagues. Add to them the American-based players in camp like Lee Nguyen, Darlington Nagbe, Ethan Finlay, and suddenly the US has more attacking players than it has spots on the field to accommodate them. and most of them are in midfield, where the US has been far too workmanlike in recent years. Perhaps Klinsmann has finally heard the chorus of complaints about his team selection. Yeah, sure, he hasn’t called in Sacha Kljestan or Benny Feilhaber, but names like Finlay and Nagbe and Bedoya and Wood show steps in that direction. Which is good, because that’s what fans want to see and, truly, what is necessary for the US to evolve and advance.


No, Christian Pulisic will not play on Friday, as he has a cold, but he’s been invited to join the team for Tuesday’s game in Ohio. He’s never played for the US above U-17 level, but a late-game sub appearance, assuming the game is well in hand, would cap-tie the young Pennsylvania native, who is also eligible to represent Croatia at the senior level.

But the goalkeepers…

Traditionally an area of strength, for the first time in a long time, the US goalie situation is a little cloudy. Tim Howard, recently transferred to the Colorado Rapids, is out of favor at his home club, Everton, while Brad Guzan is similarly in the doghouse at Aston Villa. Guzman will presumably keep his spot, but will hope a good game or two with the US can get him back on track.

Guess who’s back?

The Little Fish! That’s right, a name well known to Union fans will line up against the US for these two games (or at least be on the bench): Carlos Ruiz! Since leaving the Union, he played for Veracruz in Mexico and DC United before returning to Guatemala to play for Municipal, where he has scored 40 goals in 70 appearances since 2014.

US outlook

The US has a strong record against Guatemala, even during World Cup qualifying, having not lost since 1988 across 21 games. That said, Guatemala City is almost a mile above sea level, making it a tough place to play. A point is a fine result on its own, but the US really needs three.

And the US should get them. While the game will not be easy, the US has more than enough firepower to score two or three goals, and should give up absolutely no more than one.


  1. No suggested starting lineup?

  2. Spain, Germany, Brazil, Italy would come to this place (or come to the United States, or come to Mexico City etc.), and they would win games regardless.

    Please do not use something like this “a mile above sea level, making it a tough place to play” as a reason for excuse. We should not even mention that anymore, we must let the players know that we accept no more excuses from this team.

    The USMNT is the “better team” (vs Guatemala)! And if you are the “better team”, you must be playing like a “better team”, period.

    It’s hard to win games, but you have to win. Because that how ALL OF THE BETTER teams in the world would do.

    At the end of the day, you might lose game. But the way you play should be the play of the “better team”.

    I don’t want to watch US players would struggle with the heat, the humidity, the sea level, or whatever.

    When you want to be a “better team” (or king of CONCACAF as many of us want it to be), and in fact you are. You must play better!!!

  3. Lock Pulisic in on Tuesday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. It’s official. The union are better than the usmnt

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