Thursday, August 21, 2008

USA-Guatemala Rundown

In the first game of the CONCACAF World Cup qualification semifinal group stage, the United States faces off against Guatemala. Both team are fighting for one of two spots to advance to the final round robin group. Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago are the two other teams in the four-team group.

Historically, the United States has not done well when traveling to Guatemala, and has never won at Guatemala in World Cup qualifying. However, Guatemala has not defeated USA in the last 15 games. The United States is the clear favorites to win the group, but would likely be satisfied with a draw in hostile territory.

I was already planning on watching this game, so I figured I might as well write about it. This way I feel like I’m doing something productive while watching the game, as opposed to actually doing something productive like, say, working on grad school applications. Oh well…

The game will be played at Stadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City. Carlos Bocanegra will captain the USA squad, while Carlos Ruiz and coach Ramon Haradiaga will lead Guatemala.

10:15 PM- Kickoff

0:15 - Carlos Ruiz commits a foul within the first 20 seconds. Could be a sign of things to come.

1:15 – USA gets a free kick in a favorable spot. Good feed by Landon Donovan and after a few nervous moments in front of the box, a foul is called on USA and the attack dies.

2:15 – Carlos Ruiz gives a pseudo-elbow while protecting the ball and a foul is called. Looks a little weak, but the announcers call for a yellow card.

4:45 – Freddy Garcia has a dangerous run and gets in a decent cross for Guatemala. Nothing comes of it, but it puts Tim Howard on notice.

6:00 – Clint Dempsey called for a weak foul after a Guatemala defender falls down after being beaten, trying to shield the ball.

7:30 – Pando Ramirez has a sweet name.

9:00 – Clever passing sequence by Guatemala, but Ramirez sends his shot into the crowd.

10:00 – Only ten minutes in and Carlos Ruiz’s jersey is already covered in mud.

11:00 – Nice backheel by Dempsey! Just knocked out of bounds by the last Guatemala defender before it gets to an onrushing Landon Donovan.

13:00 – Apparently there is another (better) Adu on the USA National team – the announcers talk about the potential of Maurice Adu and his recent signing by Glasgow Rangers.

14:00 – Wasted corner kick by USA

16:15 – Cherundolo flips out and gets a yellow card after slamming the ball to the ground after losing the ball over the sideline.

18:45 – Dangerous ball across the Guatemala goal and nervous moments for the Guatemala goalie. Ricardo Trigueno almost whiffs again on the ensuing throw-in…

20:00 – Mario Rodriguez has a GREAT run down the right sideline for Guatemala but it just sneaks over the endline. Good speed, could prove to be a threat.

22:30 – Looks like a very enthusiastic and energetic crowd. No one is sitting down.

23:45 – Score flashes across the screen: Mexico is up 2-1 on Honduras.

24:15 – ANOTHER dangerous run by Mario Rodriguez, but no one is there to finish it off.

25:55 – FIGHT! Ok, not really, but Pando Ramirez goes down in a heap after Clint Dempsey gives him a brush-off. Both players are given yellow card cautions.

28:00 – Arguments among Guatemalan defenders as a lack of communication forces a poor clearance. Definitely looking a little shaky.

29:30 – Nifty footwork by Freddy Garcia in the left corner, but the cross goes right to Tim Howard.

30:30 – Brian Ching touches the ball for what seems like the first time and is offsides by about 5 yards.

32:00 – Onyewu basically delivers a right cross to Jose Contreras as he swoops in to steal the ball. No call, however.

33:00 – Pablo Mastroeni fouls Carlos Ruiz who goes down hard and Mastroeni earns a yellow card. The announcers are skeptical after watching the replay, but it looks like the two players may have hit kneecaps. Probably didn’t deserve a yellow card, but hey, Ruiz is a great actor.

36:00 – Shot by Contreras and a good save by Howard! Tim Howard easily recovers the rebound shot.

38:00 – Brian Ching finally has a good touch and rockets a shot just over the bar. Two good chances in the last couple of minutes.

39:00 – Great passing by Contreras and Freddy Garcia. Guatemala claims a handball in the box after Garcia’s cross deflects off USA defender Heath Pearce’s hand. Replays confirm it, but no call. The crowd is energized, to say the least.

40:30 – USA counters, but a great chance is spoiled by an offsides call. Brian Ching has come on the strong here at the end of the first half.

41:45 – Dangerous, dangerous run by Guatemala, but the final pass is flubbed five feet in front of goal by Ruiz. Excellent passing, but the finish was lacking. He doesn’t usually miss those, but the defense was tight.

43:15 – “Stone-hands” Trigueno almost drops a cross as he falls away from his own goal. Expect the USA to take as many shots as possible in the second half to force more saves and rebounds.

45:00 – End of the first half. Guatemala doesn’t like the timing of the final whistle as they looked to be on another breakaway. No score at the end of the first half, and not much between the two sides. I expected we might see a 0-0 final, and we’re halfway there.

Mexico did end up beating Honduras 2-1, while Trinidad & Tobago beat Cuba 3-1. T&T will likely be Guatemala’s top competitor for second place in this semifinal group.

46:00 – Shaky goalkeeping by Trigueno to start the second half, as he hesitates playing a back pass and is almost embarrassed as a USA attacker nearly swipes it.

49:00 – Oooh! So close! Rodriguez, Contreras, and Ruiz combine and just push it past the near post. Guatemala’s outside speed is really causing problems for the USA defense.

51:00 – Guatemala is pressuring the Unites States and has been the more attacking side, but USA has weathered the opportunities to this point. The crowd has energized the home side, and they seem to get closer and closer to getting that first goal. Guatemala also seems to be winning the majority of the 50-50 balls.

52:30 – Dubious offside call against Guatemala negates another potential opportunity.

55:30 – USA loses it in a dangerous area and Mario “Loco” Rodriguez inches a shot just wide far post. You wonder how much closer they can get without actually scoring.

57:00 – Freddy Thompson! Power shot from about 30 yards out just misses the near post! Guatemala is running circles around the American defense.

58:30 – Mario Rodriguez always seems to be open on the right wing. After a throw-in, Ruiz gets a touch, but can only manage a weak dribbling shot.

59:30 – Red Card for Cherundolo! What was he thinking? After getting beat, he reaches out and grabs the ankle of the Guatemalan player. His second yellow, he’s off, and USA is down to ten men.

60:45 – Eddie Lewis is covered in blood. Not sure what happened yet.

61:30 – The replay is shown, and you can see that Eddie Lewis was on the losing end of a headball challenge. Gustavo Cabrera is also down for Guatemala.

62:30 – Cabrera is shown a red card! Both teams are now down to ten men. The replay looks pretty nasty: Cabrera came in late and may have led with his elbow.

64:30 – Gustavo Cabrera is on his way to the locker room. Eddie Lewis is still down. Frankie Hedjek replaces Clint Dempsey and Marquez comes in to replace Freddy Thompson for Guatemala. Both teams will now have ten players, and will likely play more conservatively. 0-0 looks like a real possibility.

65:15 – Play finally starts again.

66:00 – DaMarcus Beasley comes on for USA to replace Eddie Lewis. Carlos Castrillo comes on to replace Freddy Garcia for Guatemala.

67:00 – Yellow card for Contreras, who blocks a freekick after creeping in within the ten yard radius.

68:00 – Great save by Trigueno! The free kick is headed on by Onyewu, and it’s just touched over the bar.

68:30 – Goal for USA!! Bocanegra nailed a header into the back corner off the corner kick. DaMarcus Beasley delivers a great corner, and it looks like the Guatemalan defenders were all standing around while Bocanegra went in for the goal. It’s a 1-0 lead for the USA.

71:00 – Guatemala looks disjointed and anxious, and will need to settle down if they want to get back into the game. USA will be content to defend.

73:00 – A Guatemala corner and a great chance right in front of the net, but the shot is shanked by Flores, who probably didn't expect to be open right in front of the net.

76:30 – A great run by Pando Ramirez sets off another chance for Guatemala. Tim Howard is forced off his line to block a rushing Mario Rodriguez attack, which sets up a corner.

77:00 – Mastroeni is replaced by Maurice Edu. Guatemala immediately rockets a shot on goal off the cornerkick, but it’s right at Tim Howard.

79:00 – Nervous defending by Bocanegra leads to tense moments at the back, but USA is able to clear the ball. Carlos Ruiz continues to pressure.

81:00 – What is going on? The ball ends up in the back of the US goal, but it looked like Tim Howard had it in his possession. Carlos Ruiz kicked Howard while he was on the ground, and Howard lets go of the ball. No goal. Surprisingly no card for Ruiz, and Tim Howard gets a yellow for going after Ruiz. The announcers make no bones about their feelings on Carlos Ruiz and let everyone know it, with liberal use of the words “dirty” and “dishonest”. Hard to blame them at the moment.

84:00 – USA counters, but with only two players it doesn’t go anywhere. Brian Ching gives a nice feed to Maurice Adu, but his shot off goes well wide.

86:00 – USA is maintaining good possession and has been limiting Guatemala’s touches over the last several minutes.

88:00 – Mario Rodriguez wins a corner, but it doesn’t lead to much.

90:00 – Four minutes to be added for stoppage. Guatemala is continuing to pressure but can’t get a good shot.

92:00 – Everyone is back for the United States. Guatemala has nowhere to go, and every attacked is cleared.

93:00 – Ruiz in the box! But great defense by Onyewu and USA clears once again.

93:45 – Surely the last attack, but Bradley steals it and heads down the pitch.

94:00 – And the whistle blows! The United States gets its first ever road World Cup qualifying win over Guatemala by the final score of 1-0. The US managed to put the ball in the back of the net and held off Guatemala’s attacks. Guatemala will be very disappointed to have squandered so many opportunities, and they leave with no points. This was likely USA’s toughest game of the semifinal round, so it is certainly a great start for the Americans.

USA was somewhat fortunate to get this win, and will look to continue their success at Cuba, while Guatemala will travel to Trinidad & Tobago. Both games will take place September 6, so stay tuned!

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