KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Around and around the energetic Americans went, slicing apart the Guatemalan resistance and tearing to shreds the notion that they might gun for anything but a victory here Tuesday night.
Requiring only a tie to advance from the semifinal round of qualification for the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. national team dissembled Guatemala, 3-1, in front of a capacity crowd at Livestrong Sporting Park. The result was one of the team’s most important, convincing and stylish victories since the national program was placed under the stewardship of coach Jurgen Klinsmann a little more than a year ago.
Despite an early goal by Guatemala’s Carlos Ruiz, any worries were allayed quickly as Clint Dempsey (two goals) and Carlos Bocanegra provided the scoring to validate the Americans’ cool dominance, and festive chants of “U-S-A!” from the announced crowd of 16,947 rang out from the start.
All corners of the cozy, modern stadium were adorned with American flags, and on a neat green field, the Americans proceeded with obvious comfort. They set the match’s pace with an up-tempo approach, zigzagging purposeful passes left and right and maintaining an overall momentum that waned only as the second half wound down.
In the fifth minute, Ruiz, the Guatemalan captain, stutter-stepped around goalkeeper Tim Howard and scored coolly from beside the left post.
Apart from a stray save or two, Howard was mostly untroubled thereafter.
In the 10th minute, Dempsey ghosted toward the near post to meet a corner kick, flicking a header toward the mouth of the goal. There it was met by Bocanegra, who cut inside to knock the ball into the net.
Eddie Johnson, a recently rejuvenated attacker from Seattle Sounders FC who scored both goals Friday after returning to the team for the first time in almost three years, gave the American formation width, as his teammates targeted him continually on the flanks. He exerted control, expressed creativity and provided the impetus for the second goal in the 18th minute, hurtling down the right side and squaring a pass to Dempsey, who put it away with a sliding finish.
For the third U.S. goal, Michael Bradley skipped into the box 10 minutes before the half, scooping the ball to Dempsey, who sneaked behind goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez Jr. at the far post for a straightforward finish.
Jamaica won its game, 4-1, and advanced with the United States to the final qualifying stage, which will begin in February.