USA Draw With Guatemala In World Cup Qualifier

Jack Demsey's hosted a viewing party for the US men's national team's qualifier against Guatemala, where Clint Dempsey scored the lone goal for the Americans as they drew 1-1 with the local side. (image source: moises castillo of ap via

Jack Demsey’s was the only bar in Manhattan showing this CONCACAF third-round World Cup qualifier free of charge. And I send buckets of praise their way for continuing to put the fans first. Incidentally, some of you may be wondering why there is no “P” in Demsey. It puzzled me as well, until I realized that every time I go there I end up taking a pee.

Wow, that was bad. Fortunately I arrived at Demsey’s about an hour early, which secured me a spot at the bar upstairs, where they had a large room just for USA fans. I inhaled a burger and fries (hey, I had just come from the gym) before going two-fisted with the Guinness. Everyone was there – folks from all the local supporters clubs – packed into what quickly became a pleasantly sweaty thunderdome as an endless reel of songs and chants reverberated throughout the space.

And then came the game, broadcast only in pay-per-view by some greedheads from Guatemala City. We had plenty of laughs about the picture quality. It reminded me of a romantic adventure starring a young Linda Lovelace that I saw many years ago.

Klinsmann put out a fantastic line-up. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have something to bitch and moan about with a US starting 11. It was essentially the same one that produced mediocre results (albeit with 3 points) in the Antigua & Barbuda match but with Fabian Johnson back at left back instead of Torres. We went with Howard in goal; Johnson at left back and Cherundolo on the right; Bocanegra and Goodson paired in the center; Bradley, Jones, and Edu in midfield; and Donovan and Gomez on the flanks with Dempsey running down the middle.

A perfect line-up for a perfect game? Not quite. Something was missing. And it was the same thing we’ve been missing for years: that ability to make something happen in the final third – and finish it. The ball needs to go into the goal.

Of course, saying I don’t have a reason to bitch and not bitching are two different things. In hindsight, maybe a more creative option like Beckerman could have replaced Edu or Jones. And I’m still upset that Cooper is not an option. Klinsmann brought on Altidore for Gomez in the second half, but the guy still goes down easier than a Kardashian. He may be netting goals in the Eredivisie, but Altidore’s production for the US national team has often been lackluster. And true to form, he forfeited an opportunity for the winner late in the game because he didn’t continue to run – 30 minutes on the pitch and the guy is already loafing.

Dempsey did bang one home in the 40th minute, giving the US a deserved 1-0 lead. And, to be honest, we should have had many more. Not that we had a lot of missed opportunities, though there were a few of those – as usual. But rather because we dominated the game and looked the stronger side throughout. I had heard that Guatemala lost to Jamaica 2-1 in their first match, but I didn’t expect the Central American side to be as bad as they looked.

The only thing Guatemala could do consistently was commit fouls. Or fake them. And they are really good at hounding the ref. Perhaps Klinsmann will use them as a model for his players?

As someone remarked, it was the fairest officiating we’ve seen in Guatemala City. But that’s like saying it’s the fairest governing we’ve seen in Afghanistan. I’m just thankful that none of our players got hurt.

Near the 83rd minute, Fabian Johnson took down Carlos Ruiz – the one Guatemalan who showed glimpses of competence – outside our area. And Marco Papa delivered a fine free-kick over the wall that left Tim Howard frozen like Ted Williams.

The entire bar sighed, before rumbling into anger and disgust. The Guatemalans had equalized, bringing a whole new meaning to “against the run of play.” But we’ve seen that a lot in the Euros as well, with stronger teams that – due to one momentary lapse – end up with just a point…or less.

The US did come away with a point. Which is about as comforting as the doctor telling you that he had to amputate your legs but he did manage to save your shoes. And, yes, we do lead our group with four points. Somehow Jamaica drew 0-0 with Antigua & Barbuda, so we are ahead of them on goal differential.

Things go dark now, until Sept. 7. One could argue that this gives Klinsmann more time to sort things out. But who knows what MLS-based players we might lose to injury in the coming months. And it’s an extra burden for our European-based players, who will have returned to their busy club schedules only to have to take a transatlantic flight for these Friday and Tuesday fixtures.

Brazil is a long way off, but at least we’re on the road.


This story also appears on Total Footblog: The Crossroads of Global Football & American Soccer. It is a soccer blog written by Christopher Dobens that offers a wide range of commentary, from the local pitch to the global stage.

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