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Gold Cup: Guatemala make it "uncomfortable" for Honduras

CARSON, Calif. — Guatemala controlled large portions of Monday’s Gold Cup match against Honduras yet were unable to test opposition ‘keeper Noel Valladares.

Los Chapines finished the match with zero shots on goal and were largely quiet on the attack over the final half hour, hanging on for a scoreless draw in the Group B opener for both teams.

However, the Guatemala players were rather pleased with the result despite their inability to break through. Guatemala, after all, went down to 10 men in the 61st minute and down to nine men with 11 minutes remaining.

“We played very hard in the second half. In the first half we created more soccer, we proposed more for the victory, but in the end it was good for us,” Guatemala captain Carlos Ruiz said. “A lot of effort, everyone was running. It was good.”

Ruiz, a forward with the Philadelphia Union, was unable to test Valladares despite his best efforts. There simply wasn’t enough service.

When Gustavo Cabrera was sent off in the 61st minute, the team started to play more defensively. Then, Henry Medina was sent off after picking up yellow cards in the 74th and 79th minutes. Guatemala had little choice but to try and escape with a point. Although Guatemala stifled Honduras, the team has plenty of work to do.

“We’re happy with the effort we gave, but not satisfied,” Guatemala’s Marco Pappa said. “You always have to improve and we have some opportunities to improve here coming up. We have to look forward to the next match and just continue working hard.”

Playing with an advantage for more than a half-hour — along with the five minutes of stoppage time, Honduras had a numerical advantage for 34 minutes — could have yielded a goal or two and, more importantly, three points for Honduras.

Instead, the Catrachos face a win-or-else scenario against Grenada.

Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suárez said it was his players’ own doing.

“The match was very complicated against a rival that was very uncomfortable,” Suárez said. “They created many problems for us and we weren’t intelligent enough to know how to deal with the pressure they were putting on us.”

Going up in numbers should have been a boon for Honduras, but instead it was not much of an advantage to his team in the end.

“The team should have been more intelligently when moving the ball around,” Suárez said. “Guatemala did what they wanted to do — they complicated things. Their objective was to make it so where there wasn’t any clear movement of the ball, and they slowed down our creative players.”

The match was played before 21,507 at the Home Depot Center. The crowd was largely split amongst Honduran and Guatemalan supporters but the Guatemalans had the loudest cheers as the game wore on, and celebrated the result when the final whistle blew.

“Playing in Los Angeles is playing in Guatemala City,” Ruiz said. “We have a lot of fans here from Guatemala and that’s good.”

While the crowd support may not be in favor when Guatemala play Jamaica in Miami in their next Gold Cup match on Friday, Ruiz said the team has to build on the effort and performance produced on Monday and, more importantly, try to break a trend that has always haunted Guatemala.

“The confidence is better right now but also Guatemala in the past has played one game good and the next game bad so we’re trying to play more good games,” Ruiz said. “We’re trying to gain more confidence every time we play. We’ll see if we can do it for the next game against Jamaica.”