At times it wasn’t pretty or even worth watching but the US Men’s National Team got it done when it mattered most last night in Kansas City. The US downed Guatemala 3-1 in route to claiming a group win in the CONCACAF semifinal qualifying round.
Clint Dempsey scored a brace to lift the US to victory. Guatemala did take an early lead in the match, just four minutes in to give some pause for worry. But the US were the better side on the night, rewarding Jurgen Klinsmann for sticking with the core group that had done well for him in the past.
Michael Bradley returned to the pitch last night and calmed down the midfield. Dempsey did his thing as usual. Herculez Gomez finally bounced back with a solid effort. And then home town hero Graham Zusi added in some help on the third goal.
Solid performance all around by the US. Klinsmann’s patience with some players like Gomez paid off in this match. His players rewarded him with three points and advancement to the next round.
Speaking of the Hexagonal stage. Oh boy.
The US won’t just have Mexico to deal with but now have the task of getting by Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, and Jamaica.
Six very good teams in different ways. If anything I’d say Costa Rica and Honduras are the weaker links in this stage but even that seems like a tough statement to make. Anything is possible for the the final set of games.
Until the schedule comes out for these games, we won’t know what to expect. Just 10 more games to go for the US as they try to make it to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
But next for the national team is a trip to Russia on Nov. 14. Expect an under-strength U.S. lineup for that game, which will be played in the southern city of Krasnodar and announced any day now. Most European guys like Tim Howard and Dempsey are expected to be rested for that one while most of the MLS guys like Kyle Beckerman, Chris Wondolowski (or Alan Gordon), and Zusi should be in the middle of a playoff battle. Expect some other MLSers to be called instead.