The United States Men's National Team only needed a draw to advance to the hexagonal stage of 2014 World Cup qualifying, but grabbed a 3-1 win over Guatemala instead.
Tuesday night's match started off exactly how the USMNT didn't want it to, with a goal from Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz at the five-minute mark. Carlos Bocanegra and Geoff Cameron crossed signals, Tim Howard held his line too long, and Guatamala's only dangerous attacker gave his team the early lead.
After that, it was all United States.
At the 10-minute mark, Bocanegra made up for his defensive error earlier in the game. Graham Zusi played a perfect corner into the box. Clint Dempsey made a magnificent run to the near post, and Bocanegra finished Dempsey's header past Ricardo Jerez.
Dempsey followed the equalizer with two goals of his own, one in the 18th minute and one in the 36th minute. With five goals overall in qualifying action, Dempsey continues to be the focal point of the USMNT's attack.
The second half didn't bring as much action, with the United States opting for defense. As a unit, they packed it into the defensive third, forcing Guatemala to open things up.
It wasn't a flawless defensive effort, although the final score reflects an above-average effort.
With the win, the USMNT moves on to the hexagonal stage of qualifying. It wasn't an easy road, but Tuesday night's win was impressive after the initial hiccup.
The USMNT hasn't missed a World Cup since 1986, and they're on track to continue that streak.
Let's recap this one with some highlights and player grades.
Check out Ruiz's goal to shock the United States at the five-minute mark:
After that goal was scored, Bocanegra netted this equalizer at the 10-minute mark:
Eddie Johnson made a beautiful cross after switching sides of the field to set up Dempsey's first goal:
And, Michael Bradley's fantastic touch to hand Dempsey his second goal of the match:
Grades for Key Players
Clint Dempsey: A+
Dempsey was nothing short of spectacular on Tuesday. With two goals and an assist, the attacker led the USMNT when it needed him the most.
The only small blemish on Dempsey's game was a yellow-card dive in stoppage time. Otherwise, he was flawless.
Michael Bradley: B+
Bradley plays extremely strong in the defensive midfield, and he didn't disappoint on Tuesday. His soft touch to set up Dempsey's second goal was excellent, giving him a high grade by itself.
Tim Howard: B
Howard got beat on Ruiz's opening goal by holding his line too long and struggled to hold a few in the second half, but he only allowed one goal overall. While it wasn't his sharpest game, a win is a win.
Carlos Ruiz: A
Ruiz has a tough job. Not only is he Guatemala's best player, but everyone else knows it. Even so, he managed to scare the United States early on with the game's first goal.
Ricardo Jerez: B-
Jerez made five saves, but he also allowed three goals. Giving credit to the USMNT for those goals is fitting, but it's still his responsibility to keep the ball from reaching the back of the net.
Because of Jamaica's goal differential, the Jamaicans jumped Guatemala in the group standings. Not only did Guatemala suffer a decisive defeat on Tuesday, but Jamaica's performance against Antigua and Barbuda ensured that their World Cup-journey would come to a close.
The United States can take a lot from this win. Offensively, the Americans were on point. Defensively, the back four players must improve if they want to continue their World Cup quest.
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