COLUMBUS, Ohio – Having arrived in Columbus on the heels of a 2-0 loss to Guatemala in World Cup qualifying Friday, US national team players are already moving on from the disappointing result and focusing on Tuesday’s rematch at MAPFRE Stadium.
The loss was the first time Guatemala had ever beaten the USMNT in a World Cup qualifier, but captain Michael Bradley made it clear that getting three points in Guatemala City was far from a given.
“I can’t emphasize it enough: These games are never easy,” Bradley told assembled media before the team’s Sunday training session in Columbus. “On a different day, even with everything being the same, if we can get it back to 2-1 then I think you have a good chance to get it back to 2-2 and we weren’t able to the other night.”
Just because it was a difficult match doesn’t mean Bradley is happy with the performance, however. He feels the effort in Central America needs to be rectified in Columbus.
“Nobody is trying to sweep [the result] under the rug and make it out that it was unlucky or whatever,” Bradley said. “We weren’t good enough. But at this point, the only thing that counts is the response and to have a team full of guys who are ready to step on the field Tuesday night in a fearless way.”
Criticism has rained down on the team and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann since the loss, but players are heartened by the fact that this spot isn’t new to them.
The team was in the same position in 2012 after losing to Jamaica in a qualifier. They won their next match – one they had to have – and say they can do it again.
“Fans are fans; they can be upset with the way we played,” midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “Everything didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, but it’s not the first time the States is in this position in terms of qualifying. We’ve been there before. We talked about it as a group – that we’ve been here before.”
And with that in mind, Bradley says the team will need to be sharper from the beginning, especially after allowing two goals in the first 15 minutes of Friday’s match.
“We have to be ready when the chance comes Tuesday night to step on the field and, right from the first whistle, give everything and play in a way that leaves no doubt as to the result at the end of the game,” Bradley said.
Removing all doubt will be important, particularly because of the stakes if the team drops more crucial qualifying points.
“It’s about as close as you can come to all or nothing,” Bradley said. “I think there’s a real sense of understanding that now, given the way things have gone and the results, it’s a game where we have to win.”
The US captain isn’t the only player aware of the needed shift in mentality.
Bedoya recalled times the team had “our backs against the wall,” and says they’ll rise to the occasion again.
“This really shows our character – who wants it more?” he said. “We’ve got to show that on Tuesday. … It’s all about showing our character. It’s a big one on Tuesday and we’re coming out here in front of a home crowd to show that we’re going to get it done.”