The pressure is on coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States as they host Guatemala on Tuesday aiming to bounce back from an embarrassing 2-0 defeat in Guatemala City in 2018 World Cup qualifying.
Klinsmann blamed “lack of focus” for the defeat in Guatemala City, which left the United States in third place in Group C in the fourth round of qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF).
Guatemala outplayed the visitors throughout and took advantage of lethargic US defending to score both goals.
Klinsmann, already criticized in the wake of last year’s semi-final Gold Cup exit and Confederations Cup playoff defeat, appeared unhappy with his team’s effort.
But plenty of pundits pointed to his own puzzling lineup choices as a contributing factor.
Klinsmann, juggling after injuries to Matt Besler, John Brooks and Fabian Johnson, started Geoff Cameron at full-back rather in the more central role he often plays for Stoke.
DeAndre Yedlin, who plays at right-back with Sunderland, started in midfield and Mix Diskerud was in an unfamiliar defensive midfield role.
“I think it was a lack of focus, concentration, and wrong decisions,” Klinsmann said. “We have to take responsibility for it, every one of us, coaches, players, and move on and get it done on Tuesday.
“We always said that World Cup qualifying is a long road, a tricky road, a difficult road.”
They’ll get a chance to start moving forward again when they host Guatemala in Columbus, Ohio, needing a win to gain ground on group leaders Trinidad and Tobago, who with seven points lead Guatemala by one — and are heavy favorites hosting winless St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Tuesday.
In other matches Tuesday, Group A leaders Mexico go for a fourth win in as many matches when they host Canada on the heels of their 3-0 victory in Vancouver on Friday. Honduras, bottom of Group A, will try to gain ground when they host El Salvador.
In Group B, leaders Costa Rica host Jamaica and Panama host Haiti.
The top two teams from each of the three groups advance to the final six-nation round of qualifying.
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