KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Nil-nil would get the job done. So would a win, or even a loss with a bit of luck in the tiebreaker department.
Still, only one result should be acceptable on Tuesday against Guatemala (7 pm ET, ESPN2, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com) at Livestrong Sporting Park. Even though a draw would seal the US national team’s place in the Hexagonal, it won’t be enough to reassure fans skeptical about the progress of the team.
Nor will it be enough to satisfy head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who made his side’s intent crystal clear on Monday.
“Our approach to the game is clear: We want to win this game,” Klinsmann said. “You only can win a game if you attack and go forward, and that’s what we’re going to do. We are not looking for a tie in that game.”
Of course, Klinsmann knows talking about attacking and pushing numbers forward is the easy part. It’s the execution that has been fleeting so far in World Cup qualifying.
Through five games in CONCACAF’s semifinal stage, the US have scored eight goals. Five have come against Antigua & Barbuda, a Caribbean nation with a population of less than 100,000, and while the Americans haven’t been shut out, they failed to score more than a single goal in any game against Jamaica and Guatemala.
“We all hope that we’re going to score more goals,” Klinsmann said. “That’s the most exciting part of the game. But I always said it’s a process and we’ll continue that process. The team understands pretty well what it takes and is patient as well.
“Looking back now, the Columbus game [a 1-0 win over Jamaica on Sept. 11] we could have scored three, four, five goals. At the end of the day, it was only one. At least you had the three points, but obviously we wish that a few more goals are coming.”
It’s safe to say Guatemala doesn’t share that same sentiment. A scoreless draw might even be ideal for head coach Ever Almeida’s side, as they too will advance with either a win or, more likely, a tie.
But regardless of the attacking intent shown by Los Chapines, the US are likely to dominate the ball for long stretches. So far in qualifying that possession gap hasn’t resulted in much when it comes to chances created, but that hasn’t dampened Klinsmann’s confidence in his charges to sooth some nerves by putting the game away early.
“We respect them,” Klinsmann said, “but I expect and we expect from ourselves that we take care of that game, that we’re in control of that game and that we go forward and score sooner rather than later into the game and make things clear.”