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Americans back on track to go to Russia following dominating win over Guatemala

The+U.S.+was+following+a+2-0+loss+to+Guatemala+on+friday+and+was+in+danger+of+failing+to+qualify+for+the+hexagonal+stage.+But+they+have+improved+and+upped+their+game%2C+they+are+once+again+on+track.+Photo+attributions+to+Paul+Sleet.
The U.S. was following a 2-0 loss to Guatemala on friday and was in danger of failing to qualify for the hexagonal stage. But they have improved and upped their game, they are once again on track. Photo attributions to Paul Sleet.

by Martin Vrankovic, staff reporter

The U.S. was following a 2-0 loss to Guatemala on friday and was in danger of failing to qualify for the hexagonal stage. But they have improved and upped their game, they are once again on track. Photo attributions to Paul Sleet.
The U.S. was following a 2-0 loss to Guatemala on friday and was in danger of failing to qualify for the hexagonal stage. But they have improved and upped their game, they are once again on track. Photo attributions to Paul Sleet.

For a while, following a 2-0 loss to Guatemala on Friday, it seemed that the United States had finally managed to do what many thought was impossible. They were in danger of failing to advance to the final, hexagonal stage of qualifying, the final test for CONCACAF teams before reaching the World Cup finals.

The loss in Guatemala on Friday night left the US with the very tangible possibility of watching a World Cup from the sidelines for the first time since 1986. The loss left the US two points behind Guatemala with three games left to play, making the return match in Columbus a must-win. Considering the quality of the opposition in the group, anything other than a win would likely see the US knocked out at the first hurdle.

The Americans responded to the pressure by taking just 12 minutes to score the first goal of the game. Clint Dempsey scored his 49th goal for the United States, following up on a knock-down header by winger Gyasi Zardes by rifling the ball into the bottom right corner. With the pressure lifted, the Americans seized control of the game, putting in a performance that defied the scoreline that had happened just three days earlier.

Geoff Cameron added a second goal off a free kick ten minutes before halftime, and Graham Zusi scored 20 seconds into the second half to effectively end the match. Jozy Altidore scored a minute from full-time to bring the scoreline to 4-0.

Much criticism was aimed towards head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, for his “experimental” squad choice for Friday’s loss. It was the latest in what has been a disappointing stretch for the national team, whose failure to win the Gold Cup last summer was followed up by a loss to Mexico in the Confederations Cup playoff.

Some fans, deciding that they’ve had enough, hired a plane to fly a banner that read “#KlinsmannOut”. The banner was flown over the stadium before Tuesday’s match, no doubt adding to the pressure on the German and his team.

However, the starting eleven that went out onto the field in Columbus was a much more tried and tested team, with five changes from Friday’s loss and several players being moved into more natural positions, mostly in defense. The benefits of this “new” approach were evident. In contrary to what was seen in Guatemala City on Friday night, the American midfield and defense were able to comfortably get rid of any threat the Guatemalan attack sent at them. On the other hand, the attacking threat provided by Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes was much more lethal than it was in Guatemala.

American captain, Michael Bradley, put his team’s much-improved performance down to similar situations in the past, saying that “We’ve got a lot of guys who have played games like this before. I think our experience and commitment carried us through.” Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann put the performance down to home advantage and his team’s more experienced players, saying that “We were in sync with the wonderful crowd that pushed them from the first second. There was wonderful energy. Every team needs leadership from its veteran players.”

The Americans now have to wait until September to confirm their place in the final stage of qualifying. They will face the winless St. Vincent and the Grenadines on September 2nd before a home showdown against Trinidad and Tobago, a match that could potentially decide who makes it to the final round, four days later.

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