By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Back on Track: USA Overwhelms Guatemala, 2-0
Cory Gibbs helped shut down Ruiz (AP)
MIAMI, FLA.—Poor Guatemala never had a chance.
Not after the US’ lackluster showing in Mexico.
Not after the criticism of the US’ commitment and tactics.
Not after coming back down to sea level.
Not even after 10,000 Guatemala fans in the heart of Dixie raised their voices to their National anthem.
The US simply dominated the Chapins from jump street, getting a goal and an assist from Eddie Johnson to earn a 2-0 win that in all actuality is flattering to the Central American side.
The US made a couple of changes from the side that went down in the high altitude of Mexico City, seeing Claudio Reyna & Greg Berhalter take a seat and DaMarcus Beasley suspended. Cory Gibbs made the first eleven to partner with Oguchi Onyewu in the middle of the defense, Steve Ralston got the start at right midfield, while Bring Ching was brought in to partner EJ up top.
Where the US came out with an overabundance of caution against Mexico, the Guatemalans felt the wrath of an unleashed aggresive style in the opening minutes of this match. Within 3 minutes the US had their first shot as Eddie Lewis, who spent the entire first half tormenting Guatemala’s right back, Nestor Martinez, lifted a cross in from the left side which fell to Landon Donovan whose shot was blocked. Brian Ching had a chance 5 minutes later as Steve Ralston lifted a cross into the box but the big Hawaiian could only head the ball wide left.
Leave it to the Grown-Ass Man, Eddie Johnson, get it started for the US. Pablo Mastroeni, who had a great game as the defensive midfielder, fed Landon Donovan at the edge of the penalty area. Donovan laid off a brilliant back heel to Johnson as EJ ran into the box. EJ sidestepped a defender and with the composure of a veteran, finished the goal off the right post and into the net. 11 minutes in and the US now had something to show for its dominance, EJ’s 8th goal in seven matches for the US.
The US continued their siege of Guatemala’s goal. Ching had a shot deflected away, just missed on a bicycle kick & headed over the bar in the span of nine minutes. Eddie Lewis just missed a low shot to the far right post. Johnson did about 4 step overs, freezing the right back, then set up Ralson, who escaped two defenders at the right hand side of the top of the box before barely missing wide left. Brian Ching then missed another golden opportunity when Lewis sent yet another gorgeous cross from the right side. Ching’s one time effort was just wide.
While the US was spurning several chances to put this one to bed, the Guatemalans, featuring a legitimate strike force in FC Dallas’ Carlos Ruiz and Dwight Pezzarossi, weren’t getting anything done on offense. Ruiz in particular had a frustrating evening. Ruiz tries to scratch, claw and outmuscle his defenders to get into position or at least draw fouls. But giving away at least four inches and about 30-40 pounds to Oguchi Onyewu, he was unable to post up at the top of the box, nor receive any passes as Gooch continually stepped forward to intercept passes and distribute nicely. When Gooch wasn’t marking Ruiz, Cory Gibbs, now with Feyenoord in Holland’s Eredivisie was shutting him down with equal effectiveness.
The US’ domination was clear, “an avalanche” was how Guatemala’s coach described it, but halftime came and went with only one goal to show for it. They looked to add to it in the second half and maintained possession, probing the Guatemalan defense while the backline continued denying and frustrating the increasingly petulant Ruiz.
The 65th minute signalled a frenzied 5 minutes that would ultimately decide the match. Eddie Lewis, continuing his left flank dominance whipped in another cross that was met by an unmarked Donovan and headed home. I thought it was a goal and got up to celebrate only to see it called back for offsides. Carlos Ruiz was finally heard from as he broke through the right side and lashed a wicked shot that was brilliantly saved by Kasey Keller. Back came the US as Lewis sent in another cross. Donovan kept it from going out of bounds and backheeled it to EJ who unleashed a shot that was blocked. The ball rebounded out to Donovan who tried to shoot but his blocked shot was deflected (replays showed it was a handball in the area and should have been a penalty) into the air and into the path of EJ. Johnson laid out for a bicycle kick of his own that was brilliantly saved by Guatemala’s keeper, Richard Triqueno. On its ensuing possession, Lewis again centered in the area for EJ who flicked the ball to on an rushing Steve Ralston who, in turn, made no mistake from 3 yards out. Finally, 2-0 USA.
Ruiz’ night continued in frustrating fashion. He drew a yellow card for diving in an attempt to draw a penalty meaning he’ll miss Guatemala’s next match against Mexico. He continued to get no service as Gooch continued to dominate the middle, so much so that a Guatemalan fan behind me said in Spanish, “That Black guy…he’s BIG!”
Guatemala tried to cut into the lead, Guillermo Ramirez going close after 81 minutes and forcing a great injury time save from Keller. The final whistle sounded and the jubliant US fans, myself included, celebrated as the US lept into 2nd place with as complete a performance as you’ll see.
Next up: Ticos of Costa Rica in Salt Lake City, June 4.