GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — It was an MLS-themed evening on Wednesday, as Marco Pappa and Alejandro Moreno faced off in a duel of MLS stars representing their national teams.
With Guatemala and Venezuela tuning up for their respective regional championships, Chicago Fire winger Pappa (above) ended up on the short end of a 2-0 decision. The South Americans were clearly the better team on the evening, controlling play for much of the match and cruising to victory with a goal on either side of the half, while leaving Guatemala with some serious doubts heading into the Gold Cup.
The Vinotinto got off to a furious start, dominating possession against a punchless Guatemalan attack. Venezuela went close a number of times before taking the lead in the 25th minute through Getafe striker Nicolás Fedor.
Playing in a hopelessly conservative 5-3-2 with Pappa lined up in the hole behind lone striker Óscar Isaula, the Guatemalans had all sorts of trouble getting their offense going in the first half, and were lucky not to trail by more going into the half.
In the second half, coach Guatemala coach Hugo Almeida shifted to a 4-4-2 with Pappa on the left side of midfield, and things started to look a little better. The Fire attacker had been starved for service and ideas for most of the first half, but looked much livelier and confident out wide, becoming one of Guatemala’s most creative elements.
The Bicolor went close just one minute into the second half, but couldn’t find the back of net despite pressuring. The hosts eventually succumbed to the sustained Venezuelan attack, with defender Grenddy Perozo heading home a set piece in the 66th minute, just after the introduction of Chivas USA's Moreno.
In his half hour of work, the tireless Goats striker made a number of creative runs and created a handful of scoring chances, as Venezuela looked closer to a third goal than Guatemala to breaking the shutout.
“It was great, 2-0 is a great start for us,” said Moreno. “A great start to our preparation for Copa América, so we got off on the right foot. This is our first match and it’s been the last two or three days working pretty hard. We have about 30 days left, but we’re off to a good start.”
While the Guatemalans were generally displeased with their performance, Pappa was one of the bright spots on the evening.
“We paid for our inexperience on set pieces,” he said. “It’s something we have to work on and something we can definitely improve. I think we did everything we could to get better. We tried to readjust at the half and I think we improved some, but we couldn’t. ... Now comes the most important part, which is the Gold Cup. More important things are coming for the team, and we can do things a lot better, play much better soccer.”
Venezuela return to South America to host world champions Spain next week in their next tune-up for the Copa América. Guatemala head to Los Angeles to face Honduras in their Gold Cup kickoff at the Home Depot Center on June 6.