USMNT vs. Guatemala: Key Battles to Watch in Friendly

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2013

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 08:  Forward Landon Donovan #10 of Team USA advances the ball against Team Antigua and Barbuda during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier Match at Raymond James Stadium on June 8, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

On Friday night in San Diego, the second stage of the United States men's national team summer schedule begins with a friendly against Guatemala at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Americans are using the match as a warm-up for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, a tournament which Guatemala will sit out.

Jurgen Klinsmann's squad will be heavy favorites in the match, but it should not take its opponents for granted.

Here is a look at three key battles to watch when the two North American squads take to the pitch just above the Mexican border on Friday night.


Oguchi Onyewu and Clarence Goodson vs. Minor Lopez

Just like the first two years of the Klinsmann era, the back four will continue to be a concern for the Yanks as they enter the Gold Cup.

Two of the more experienced players on the roster, Oguchi Onyewu and Clarence Goodson, will be expected to step into the role of starting center-backs.

Onyewu has been on the outside looking in for quite a while now, and he—as well as Goodson—has something to prove over the next month.

The main Guatemalan forward that the duo will have to contain will be Minor Lopez, who has scored six goals in 22 appearances for La Azul y Blanco.

Lopez stands at a towering 6'4", and he will challenge the 6'5" Onyewu and 6'4" Goodson on every set piece opportunity.


Jose Manuel Contreras vs. Landon Donovan

The two most experienced players for each squad on Friday night will likely go up against each other in the midfield at some point.

Landon Donovan is making his triumphant return to the United States squad after months of unrest and indecision about his future, while Jose Manuel Contreras will be looking to give Guatemala a steadying influence in the middle of the pitch.

Donovan will be making his 145th appearance for the Yanks, and he could potentially score the 50th goal of his international career.

Contreras will also be out on the wing in some respect for the visitors, and with former MLS player Marco Pappa not in the squad, he will be relied on to set up opportunities in attack for Guatemala.


Kyle Beckerman and Stuart Holden vs. Jonathan Lopez and Jean Marquez

Moving into the center of the midfield, the United States once again has the clear advantage at the position.

Kyle Beckerman has been a favorite of Klinsmann over the past two years, and he will be cast into the role of defensive lynchpin that Michael Bradley usually is employed in.

Possibly the biggest question hovering around the United States camp is how Stuart Holden will perform in his first major role since returning from his injury troubles. The Bolton Wanderers player should receive ample opportunities to prove his worth in the next month, starting with Friday's friendly.

Guatemala's central midfield duo of Jonathan Lopez and Jean Marquez will likely be overmatched by their counterparts but they surprisingly have more combined international experience than Beckerman and Holden do.

The Guatemalan duo will have to bank on that experience to stop an American midfield duo that enjoys going forward in attack when the opportunity allows itself.


Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.