The United States’ first sojourn into 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying is over, concluding with a 1-1 draw in Guatemala City. This result has put the US in first place in Group A on goal difference, level on points with Jamaica.
The long weekend started off in mildly pleasing fashion. A 3-1 victory in Tampa, Florida over Antigua & Barbuda was never much in doubt, though the visitors did pull it back to 2-1 before Herculez Gomez scored the insurance goal. While the performance was dominant in possession, there was a distinct sense that the players lacked the killer instinct to punish Antigua when they had opportunities.
Late last night, the Americans took a lead in the 40th minute via Clint Dempsey’s strong right-footed shot back against the grain. Promising young left back Fabian Johnson fed Dempsey outside the area, and the Texan eluded two defenders. His shot caught goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez leaning the wrong way. The US continued the theme of the Antigua match though, with large spells of possession. Yet they seemed uneasy in the final third, being outshot in the match 11-8 by Guatemala and only managing 2 shots on target.
The US appeared to extend the lead as Jozy Altidore put a through ball into the net. Yet referee Joel Aguilar called a foul on a Guatemalan player outside the area, and did not give the Americans any advantage. The resulting free kick was lacking.
As the United States tried to hold that lead, and Aguilar called Johnson for fouling Carlos Ruiz outside the 18 yard box in the 82nd minute. 2nd half substitute Marco Pappa struck a marvelous free kick for Guatemala, which froze Tim Howard and skimmed under the cross bar for the late dagger. The Yanks settled for a 1-1 draw, and a single point to smuggle home from Guatemala.
So do you feel that 4 points in 2 matches is good enough, considering one match was in a traditionally difficult arena against a surly, menacing opponent?
In my mind, this is acceptable given that it’s evident things continue to evolve under Klinsmann. A National Team coach never gets a ton of time with his players, but the issue that plagues the US right now is a lack of presence and instinct when presented with a golden opportunity. While you don’t want to see the squad taking a lot of low-percentage shots, there needs to be a composure present to know when it’s your time to blast it home.
What do you think? Has the United States done enough to satisfy you the fan in these first two matches? Now that the first year of the Klinsmann era is complete, is the team moving in the right direction? Let us know in the comments below.