Thursday, June 07, 2007

US v Guatemala - Group B starts tonight

US MNT vs. Guatemala
9:00pm ET
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Telefutura
Internet: MatchTracker text play by play

Almost a year after their last meaningful match, the US take to the pitch tonight looking to shake off the old and restate their claim as the best team in Concacaf. But to make such a statement, they will need to push past a Guatemalan side that has caused problems for them in the past. The game plan for Guatemala, as it will be for most of the other teams the US faces over the next few weeks, is simple, frustrate and counter.

Guatemala will fill their end of the pitch with as many bodies as they can and hope Carlos Ruiz or maybe Dwight Pezzarossi can catch the US pushing a bit too much. We saw this first hand in Dallas back in March how well this worked out for the blue and white. Of course the US will have a bit of a tougher side this time around, but unless they change their tactics from that Wednesday evening, the result might not change.

In their previous meeting, the US failed to push forward quickly enough, allowing Guatemala to, time and time again, get nine men behind the ball. Since they were also hesitant to throw numbers forward, fearing a counter-attack, it was nearly impossible for them to get anything going. Hopefully tonight we see a different plan.

Guatemala will probably play with five in the middle, so a lot of this game is going to fall on Michael Bradley and Benny Feihaber. If they can pick some pockets and release Dempsey or Beasley up the sides, it will be a great night for team USA.

On the other side of the ball, the US's backline need to keep Ruiz marked, especially on free kicks. Say what you will about 'El Pescadito', but he is great at slipping away from his mark (just ask Jimmy Conrad). Onyewu will probably be posted up against him, but the gooch needs to make sure that the lord of the dive doesn't get him into card trouble early.

This really is a must win game for the US, so hopefully the hunger that a lot of players showed against China last weekend will reappear tonight. If they win big against Guatemala, it will cause other teams to reevaluate their bunker down game plans, thus providing the Nats will more open space in later matches. If they are closed down, the red, white and blue and look forward to more of the same.

Predictions: Me US 3-0 Guatemala, Wife US 2-0 Guatemala

Predicted starting lineup:

El Salvador vs. Trinidad & Tobago
11:00pm ET
TV: Telefutura
The other Group B match sees El Salvador taking on Trinidad & Tobago. With the best the Soca Warriors have to offer sitting this one out thanks to Jack Warner, El Salvador should have a chance to get a full three points. Look for much of their attack to focus around Ronald Cerritos. There is bound to be some sloppy play in this one which might just lead to a number of goals. The loser of this match is pretty much out of the Gold Cup.

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