USA vs. GUATEMALA
Friday, July 5, 2013, 11 pm ET
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
Watch on NBCSN | Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com
The US national team hosts Guatemala in San Diego on Friday night in their only warm-up match ahead of the 2013 Gold Cup, giving Jurgen Klinsmann and his hybrid roster 90 minutes or so to sort out the details before their tournament opener in Portland on Tuesday.
Their savvy Central American guests figure to provide a useful preview of the packed defenses and David-vs.-Goliath mindsets they will encounter against CONCACAF minnows Belize and Cuba. The Yanks are keen to make a strong start against those Group C opponents before the July 16 meeting with Costa Rica which is likely to determine the top finisher in the group.
For their part, Guatemala are rejiggering their approach after an unsuccessful 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign ground to a halt in the semifinal stage with a 3-1 loss to the US in Kansas City last October.
The Yanks hold the historical advantage in this matchup with a 13-4-6 all-time record against Guatemala. It's been a particularly one-sided affair of late, with Los Chapines having to hark all the way back to 1988 to find their last victory over the giants to the north, a 19-game span.
The USMNT left Guatemala City's Estadio Mateo Flores with a 1-1 draw in qualifying just over a year ago and assured passage to the Hexagonal round with that victory at Sporting Park a few months later.
UNITED STATES OUTLOOK
Klinsmann said earlier this week that Friday's starting lineup will represent his first-choice 11 for the Gold Cup, slightly raising the levels of intrigue as fans and pundits wait to see how he will arrange the intriguing collection of talent he's called in.
With Kyle Beckerman patrolling in front of the defense, Klinsmann can call on myriad creative options in midfield with Joe Corona, Stuart Holden, Jose Torres and Mix Diskerud. Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez are eminently proven quantities capable of posing danger up front or in wide roles, and the irrepressible Jack McInerney is ready to state his case on the full international level. The choices along the back line are almost too numerous to list here, with an eight-man group rich in experience and diversity plus three varied options at goalkeeper.
That said, whoever the Yanks' boss pegs as his top men for this tournament have a very limited window within which to sort out their roles and build a cohesive unit. After all, a first-place trophy – probably attained via revenge against two-time defending Gold Cup champs Mexico – is the clear goal this month and that test, should they stay on course in the previous stages, is only a couple of weeks away.
Never the most star-studded contender in CONCACAF but usually one of the most tenacious, Los Chapines gave the US and Jamaica all they could handle in Group A of the semifinal stage of World Cup qualifying. Finishing level with the Reggae Boyz on points, Guatemala fell agonizingly short of advancement to the Hexagonal round thanks to inferior goal differential.
That disappointment was followed by a lukewarm fifth-place performance from a youngish squad in the Copa Centroamericana, marked by three low-scoring draws in the group round and a loss to Panama in the fifth-place game to determine UNCAF's final entrant in the Gold Cup.
The process of generational renewal has begun for this perennial underdog and is likely to present a bumpy road for the near future. Their traditional defense-first mentality looks like a fitting test for a US unit which is bracing for asymmetrical combat with Belize and Cuba later this month, though.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
USA – DaMarcus Beasley
What's old is new again for several members of Klinsmann's squad, with World Cup veterans like Donovan, Gomez and Oguchi Onyewu called in to provide seasoning for the young upstarts looking to make an impression in this tournament.
Named US captain for this event as Clint Dempsey takes some well-deserved down time, Beasley is an apt leader for this diverse team. But it's important that he and the Yanks make an assured start to a busy month -- and it's still far from certain which position on the field the Mexico-based left-footer will even occupy.
GUATEMALA – José Manuel Contreras
With veteran Carlos Ruiz out of the picture and Netherlands-based star Marco Pappa not called in for this game, the 27-year-old looks like one of the more dangerous attacking weapons at the disposal of Chapines coach Víctor Hugo Monzón. A veteran of the Guatemalan league during his own playing days, Monzón stepped in with a new set of eyes and ideas after Ever Almeida fell just short of steering the squad into the Hex last fall. Guatemala have only scored four goals in their nine matches this year and Contreras has netted two of them.
DEFENDERS (8): Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/Mexico), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana/Mexico), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon/Portugal), Michael Orozco Fiscal (Puebla/Mexico), Michael Parkhurst (FC Augsburg/Germany)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Helsinborg/Sweden), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/Mexico), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/Norway), Stuart Holden (Bolton/England), Jose Torres (Tigres UANL/Mexico)
GOALKEEPERS (2): Victor Ayala (Malacateco/Guatemala), Ricardo Jérez Jr. (Alianza Petrolera/Colombia)
DEFENDERS (7): Carlos Castrillo (Comunicaciones/Guatemala), Carlos Gallardo (Marquense/Guatemala), Johny Girón (Xelajú/Guatemala), Víctor Hernández (Heredia/Guatemala), Milton Leal (Xelajú/Guatemala), Jonathan López (Marquense/Guatemala), Elías Vásquez (Comunicaciones/Guatemala)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Luis Cardona (Malacateco/Guatemala), José Manuel Contreras (Comunicaciones/Guatemala), Jean Márquez (Comunicaciones/Guatemala), Angelo Padilla (Puntarenas/Costa Rica), Wilber Pérez (Suchitepequez/Guatemala), Renato Sequen (Municipal/Guatemala), Sergio Trujillo (Municipal/Guatemala)
FORWARDS (4): Kevin Arriola (Xelajú/Guatemala), Minor López (Marquense/Guatemala), Enrique Miranda (Heredia/Guatemala), Edward Santeliz (Malacateco/Guatemala)