The United States Men’s National Team will be heading to Central America on Friday to take on Guatemala at the Estadio Mateo Flores. It will be the third match of the fourth round in 2018 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.
Where They Stand in the Group
The two nations are in group C with two other countries. Only six games will be played in this round and for the USMNT a victory in this match will place them in complete control of advancing to the Hex. The Yanks are sitting on top of the group with four points and a positive five goal differential. The Chapines are in third place with three points and a positive three goal differential.
The United States are tied with Trinidad and Tobago with four points apiece. However, the Yanks are ahead of them due to their better goal differential. The Soca Warriors only have a positive one goal differential. The country in last place is St. Vincent and the Grenadines with zero points, plus with their negative nine goal differential they will most likely stay in the basement of the group. Regardless, if they shock T&T on Friday night and win the match at the Arnos Vale Stadium, the Caribbean nation will still be in last place.
Games at Guatemala Have Proven to be Tricky Waters for the Yanks
United States' history in Guatemala is a bit complicated. The Yanks have only won once in the house of La Furia Azul in nine attempts. However, they have also not lost to Guatemala home or away since October 14th, 1984. The Yanks usually have physical battles with the Central Americans when they play at the Estadio Mateo Flores. The record for the USMNT in Guatemala (W-D-L) is 1-5-3 even Jurgen Klinsmann has not been able to defeat La Azul y Blanco in their home.
The two sides faced each other in the same round the last World Cup Qualification cycle. The Yanks and La Bicolor clashed on June 12th, 2012 and it seemed that the USMNT were on the verge of recording their second victory in Guatemala City. Clint Dempsey gave the Americans a 1-0 lead in the in the 39th minute. However, in the final 10 minutes of the match Marco Pappa leveled the score 1-1 in the 81st minute.
How the USMNT Pick Up Three Points
However, the main reason why Yanks will be able to pick up their second victory in Guatemala is because of Bobby Wood. Since Dempsey left Europe there have been no American strikers scoring goals in the old continent on a constant basis, till Wood. The 23-year-old striker has shown before that he shines under the international spotlight.
He has scored four goals in only 14 caps with the national team. Wood has scored two game winners on the road against the Netherlands and the defending World Cup champions Germany last year. Plus, he was able to score against the U.S. bitter rivals Mexico in the 2015 CONCACAF Cup at the Rose Bowl. He already has a goal under his belt in these qualification games. In the United States opener match against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on November the 13th at Busch Stadium.
Make no mistake about it regardless of the superior firepower the Yanks have over Guatemala, the USMNT will not be dominating the match. That puts the pressure on Wood and Dempsey to finish their chances on Friday.
If the Yanks score first that will create gaps in the Central American defense and the U.S. midfield is more than capable of exposing and tallying up goals. Plus, an early goal or two will quiet down the crowd and place all the pressure on Guatemala to respond.
The Chapines Road to an Upset Victory is Simple
Same thing goes for the home team. Shocking the Americans by taking the lead will force them to chase the game. If that happens then Pappa can maneuver around the midfield and look to find Carlos Ruiz up top. At the prime age of 36, Ruiz will not beat anybody in a foot race. However, the pesky forward has knack for scoring and has proven it in his long career. So if he is able to get a clean shot off then that might spell trouble for the United States.