The Americans may look like the better team on paper, but Guatemala isn’t about to treat a US win as a forgone conclusion.
With the US national team playing their first match in a home-and-away World Cup qualifying series at Estadio Mateo Flores Friday night (10 pm ET; beIN SPORTS) the Guatemalans know it will be a tough environment for the visitors.
Asked if he’d say the Americans were the favorites coming into the series, FC Dallas defender Moises Hernandez suggested Guatemala can come away with a win.
“No, I wouldn’t say,” said Hernandez to reporters. “We’re at home. For me, I never call anyone a favorite when it comes to soccer. But I think if we do things well on Friday, I think we can come away with three points.”
He added: “I think the team is doing well. The last matches we played were good ones and if we continue this way and with confidence, we can do some things.”
The US will be looking for wins tonight and again in Columbus on Tuesday to all but secure a spot in the next hexagonal round of 2018 World Cup qualifying. US coach Jurgen Klinsmann will also likely want to shift momentum back in the Americans’ favor after a rocky 2015 where the US lost the Gold Cup and failed to qualify for the Confederations Cup.
To that end, Klinsmann isn’t underestimating the competition, even if the US hasn’t lost to Guatemala since 1988.
“We know all the Guatemalan players,” Klinsmann said. “We’ve analyzed each one.”
“It will be a tough game for both teams. We’re looking for the win to keep first place and Guatemala wants to keep their position. We both need the points."
In Group C, the US and Trinidad & Tobago both sit on top with four points each. Guatemala are third with three points. St Vincent & the Grenadines sit at the bottom, having lost both their first two matches.
If the US can earn wins against Guatemala, that will be enough to assure a spot in the hexagonal round as long as St Vincent & the Grenadines don't earn surprise results against Trinidad & Tobago.
With Guatemala starting at home, the Americans are expecting the hosts to take the game to them.