Last night at Livestrong Sporting Park the United States took care of their business and advanced to the next round of World Cup qualifying with a 3-1 win over Guatemala. After going down 1-0 early, the US scored 3 unanswered to get the victory.
The first goal was a disaster for the US back line, as Geoff Cameron stepped up while Carlos Bocanegra did not and a long ball over the top put Carlos Ruiz in behind the US defense. While Ruiz raced down on goal, Tim Howard stayed back not committing until late. Ruiz rounded Howard and slotted the ball into the net giving Guatemala a shocking 1-0 lead. The lead didn't last long though as the US immediately pushed the game. In the 10th minute thanks to some great hustle from Herculez Gomez the US won a corner. Graham Zusi's driven corner was headed towards goal by Clint Dempsey. Bocanegra raced in and redirected the header past Ricardo Jerez and tied the game. The US grabbed the lead in the 18th minute with some good play down the right wing. Steve Cherundolo played a ball down the line to Eddie Johnson. Johnson got down the line and played a low cross into the middle where Dempsey scuffed the shot but it got into the net giving the United States the lead. Howard was called in to make a big save shortly after that as again the US back line struggled to deal with Guatemala's attack, but Howard parried the shot away. The US continued to push the game looking for another goal. In the 29th minute Zusi played a great ball to the back post for Johnson. Johnson headed the ball into the middle but Jerez got to it before Herculez Gomez ending the chance. In the 36th minute the US finally found their 3rd, Zusi had the ball on the wing and dribbled at the Guatemalan defense before laying the ball off to Michael Bradley. Bradley's first touch let him down but the ball went to Gomez. Bradley though continued his run and Gomez laid the ball back off to him. In on goal, Jerez came off his line. Bradley chipped the ball over Jerez and was headed towards goal. Dempsey raced in and made sure that the ball got into the net making it 3-1.
At the half down two goals, Guatemala was on the outside looking in on the Hex as Jamaica was up 2 on Antigua in the other game, making up the goal difference gap. In the second half though it was the US that seemed to be the one pushing more. Jerez made a nice save on long range shot from Danny Williams. the rebound fell to Johnson but Jerez was up again and made another good save to keep Guatemala in the game. Immediately after that the US had another good chance as Gomez got played in behind the Guatemalan defense. Gomez got caught though and had to move out wide. The chance wasn't gone though as Gomez played a great cross to the back post where Dempsey just missed connecting on the header that would have made it 4. Guatemala started to push more needing a goal to get themselves back into the Hex picture. In the 66th minute Howard almost gifted them a goal as a low cross by Jose Contreras was not held by Howard. Still with some good reactions, Howard kicked away the muffed collection to keep the 2 goal lead. The US continued to push and should have had a penalty in the 70th minute as Bradley cut past a defender in the box. Bradley was brought down but the referee made no call. In the other game Jamaica scored twice more while Antigua got one themselves to make it 4-1 to Jamaica. But being down on goal difference, Guatemala never really looked into pushing the game and getting themselves back into the Hex. They didn't push the game as much as I thought they would considering they were outside qualifying. Still the final whistle blew and Guatemala just never seemed interested in pushing it and the US guaranteed their passage and sent Guatemala home.
A month ago Columbus raised the bar for US support in the US-Jamaica game and last night, Kansas City matched it in my opinion. The crowd was amazing throughout the game, and while it was below capacity because they couldn't sell standing room only tickets and a portion of the Budweiser corner was taken out for the ESPN broadcast, contributing to the lower number, KC put themselves easily into the discussion for a Hex game some time next year. Robb Heineman tweeted that he thought the performance earned KC the US-Mexico game next year. I'm not sure I'd go that far, I'd be hesitant to go against what's worked in Columbus for US-Mexico, but I'd be shocked if KC didn't get another important game, possibly Costa Rica or Honduras.