The penultimate round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for 2014 will come to an end Tuesday night as the United States take on Guatemala. The two sides are tied atop the Group A table with 10 points and only need a draw to advance.
A late equalizer from Guatemala's Marco Pappa offset a first-half goal from Clint Dempsey when the teams played on Guatemalan turf back in June. While both countries would accept the same result Tuesday, Team USA will likely be pushing harder for the win on home soil.
Jamaica is lurking three points behind, meaning neither team can afford to play it overly safe and risk getting overtaken on the final day. With that in mind, here's a look at the key viewing information for the crucial qualifying match.
Where: Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
When: Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 7:15 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
The United States were expected to cruise through the current round without many issues, but it hasn't played out that way. A loss to Jamaica and the aforementioned draw with Guatemala leaves the Americans to fight for their World Cup lives Tuesday.
Even though they are still heavily favored to advance, the team was hardly convincing in a 2-1 victory over Antigua and Barbuda last week. It took an amazing performance from surprise call-up Eddie Johnson to earn all three points.
Team USA will have to elevate their level of play from that game in order to secure a spot in the final round of qualifying. Guatemala have won three straight group matches, mostly thanks to the heroics of veteran striker Carlos Ruiz.
The former MLS star, who currently plays for Veracruz, has scored three goals in four games during the current qualifying round. There's no doubt he will be the focus of the American defensive game plan due to his 54 international goals.
United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann will be looking for his team to create more scoring chances. While the Americans dominated possession against Antigua and Barbuda, it only led to a handful of dangerous opportunities in the attacking third.
The squad has enough finishing talent in the likes of Herculez Gomez, Dempsey and Johnson, but the injured Landon Donovan's creativity in the midfield is sorely missed. Michael Bradley has taken steps toward filling the role, but he isn't all the way there yet.
All told, expect the United States to be the more aggressive team throughout the match. Not only are the Americans looking to defend home field, but they want to build up some momentum heading into the final round after some lackluster performances.
That means Carlos Bocanegra and his fellow defenders must be prepared for quick counterattacks, which will probably make up a vast majority of Guatemala's chances. Ruiz will make them pay for any mental lapses at the back.
A narrow United States victory is the most likely result. Guatemala should still advance as well, barring a blowout victory for Jamaica. There haven't been any of those in Group A.
United States 2, Guatemala 1
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