Guatemala players have their heads hidden in their shirts, but the US players are celebrating in relief on the field - there was a lot of pressure on them going into these last two games and tonight, after an early scare, they delivered.
Eddie Johnson running round the field carrying a US flag and looking like he hasn't a care in the world - these two games have been a personal triumph for him, and a vindication for the coach who recalled him.
Klinsmann took his team through with 13 points - the same number of points they got at the same stage in the last qualifying semi-final four years ago. More importantly his team looked more convincing tonight, and Bradley had one of those games where he just kept the side ticking over perfectly. They'll need to iron out the defensive errors before the Hexagonal, but for now the US and Jamaica can enjoy their qualification for the next round.
Thanks for all your tweets and emails. Sorry I didn't get to use them all. See you next time. Good night.
FINAL SCORE: USA 3 GUATEMALA 1
Peep! PEEP! PEEEEEEEEP! Job done for the USA. Final thoughts in a minute.
Jamaica have qualified as well by the way.
90 mins +3: Corona tries to pick the ball up and take it into the corner but he's bundled off the ball and eventually Guatemala have a goal kick. Not that it matters now.
90 mins +2: Dempsey goes down ridiculously easily and quite rightly picks up a yellow for diving. He must really want that hat trick, if not an Oscar.
90 mins +1: This part of the grind™ is nearly over, but the USA still looking to get the ball forward.
90 mins: So the Reggae Boyz in pole position for second place in the group.
Eddie Johnson trots off the field to a warm round of applause and a wide smile from his coach. Corona comes on for him and immediately charges in to almost meet a dangerous Demspey cross. Three minutes to be added on.
88 mins: The USA sweep forward again and suddenly the ball is swept wide for Kljestan who has time to shape and drive the boal goalward. It's parried clear though. Guatemala's players looking understndably frustrated right now.
Pezzarossi comes on for Guatemala, but it could be too little, too late, as Jamaica, and Dane Richards, have scored again.
86 mins: Game gets going again after the injury delay, but the US will be quite happy for it to be stop/start at the end. Bradley holds the ball up superbly in the box, but the US lose possession after he lays it off.
84 mins: USA are looking pretty controlled as the game winds down. Now Bradley knocks the ball out of play, so Ruiz, who's slowed a lot in the second half, can get treatment for what looks like a calf injury.
82 mins: Game slowing down a little as Guatemala gather themselves for one final press, but they're running out of time.
"You're not going to Brazil" chant the USA fans. Their team has a fair amount of work to do before they can be sure that's not a sung that'll be sung at them next year. Good clean sheet so far in this second half though.
80 mins: Jamaica have scored again! Dane Richards hooking home very coolly in the box. Advantage Jamaica, once more.
Now Guatemala re-thinking their substitution strategy. It's USA 3 Guatemala 1 and the visitors need a goal.
Almeida considering his changes now. Sticking with the shirt though. Unwisely.
78 mins: Long range first time shot from Dempsey swerves wide. He's looking for his hat trick and the goal that would take him past Brian McBride in the all time US standings.
Looks like Edu is warming up for Zusi and indeed he comes in for the young hometown player, who gets a good reception, as you would expect.
76 mins: USA just under 15 minutes from qualifying for the next round. Johnson picks up a free kick in the Guatemala half an Vasquez picks up a yellow for pulling down the Seattle man as he drifted past him.
74 mins: On the sidelines, the Guatemala coach, Ever Almeida is wearing a deeply problematic shirt. As if to admonish him, Williams lines up and blasts a shot just over the bar from distance. Consider that a warning, Ever.
Guatemala have a free kick just inside the US half after Dempsey's boot is high. Another Contreras shot is charged down and the US work it clear, via Bradley.
72 mins: Last time USA had a strong shout for a decision, Guatemala went up to the other end and scored. now they win a corner from which Contreras hammers one goalbound. It's deflected over though, for another corner, that's subsequently cleared at the near post.
70 mins: US get another corner after another Johnson run is caught out. Zusi's cross is cleared then sent back in by Parkhurst to where a lot of red and white shirts wait in the box. Bradley goes down for a strong penalty shout, but nothing doing. Twenty minutes to go.
Still USA 3 Guatemala 1 and Jamaica 2 Antigua 1
68 mins: Lopez wins a header in the box - he's looked lively since coming on at the half for Rodriguez.
Cameron almost caught out by a long ball, but just sticks out a leg in time to cut it out.
66 mins: That USA substitution is made. Gomez, who's put in a very good shift, comes out and Johnson will move up top.
Immediately Guatemala attack and Howard gets out of jail as he spills a shot that Lopez was very close to pouncing on, before a prone Howard scooped the ball clear with his feet.
64 mins: ...Zusi sends it over to Dempsey who heads wide. Just seen a clip of the Antigua goal by the way. Beautiful free kick. Will that news change the way Guatemala play here?
Looks like Kljestan coming on for Gomez in a minute by the way.
62 mins: Antigua have scored! Guatemala are back into second place as things stand unless the USA score again. Johnson tries to instigate an attack down the right in that cause, but his attempted cross is charged down for a corner...
60 mins: An hour gone in this one and the US have half an hour left to not concede three goals. USA 3 Guatemala 1
A long ball forward from the visitors runs straight through for Howard and the US can attack. Bradley and Dempsey combine to almost set the Tottenham man through, but he can't quite reach the ball.
58 mins: A goal for Antigua or Guatemala changes the complexion of this group, but the US will be happy if that remains a matter of academic interest somewhere in their rear view mirror.
Another chance for the US!
56 mins: It's the USA's turn to play on the counter as Guatemala commit men forward. They race forward then slow the ball down to search for the opening, and suddenly Cherundolo is free in all sorts of space on the right, and his cross causes a problem. It's cleared, fired back in and Johnson is an inch from getting on the rebound decisively. Then a minute later Dempsey almost gets to a ball between the defense and the keeper to get his third. USA turning the screw a little.
54 mins: Pappa surges forward in the US half but the Guatemala attack breaks down. Klinsmann won't like seeing him have that much space though.
CHANCE! Gomez races down the right in the first significant US attack of the half and Johnson makes an unlikely mess of it by airkicking in front of goal.
52 mins: Williams got crunched in that tackle and is down getting some treatment. Still Jamaica going through with the USA as things stand. USA 3 Guatemala 1
50 mins: Someone called La Malicia emails:
"I can't understand why no one is talking Michael Bradley. Seriously, he's become the key player for the team. Smart, strong play."
I think Bradley actually gets talked about a fair amount these days. usually in the context of how nobody talks about him. The USA always look to have a better shape when he's on.
His co-midfielder Williams is down at the moment and looks to be in some trouble after a nasty looking challenge from Velasquez.
49 mins: Bradley (steady, reliable etc) tries to settle play down a little in the middle. USA have 77% possession so far by the way, which should tell you a fair amount about the pattern of this game.
Guatemala definitely trying to press early in the second half though and now Ruiz clatters into Howard as he follows in on a Lopez shot.
47 mins: Pappa on for Figueroa by the way. Can he force something here? He looked rusty against Jamaica the other night. Guatemala are attacking early though. Lopez forces Howard to rush out and make an early stop.
Peep: We're off again. Pappa is on by the way.
Klinsmann being interviewed pitch side, and noting that everything goes through Ruiz in the opposing attack and saying that the US want to score the fourth goal. Now he's being asked about Germany giving up a 4-0 lead earlier today and saying he's told the players "We don't let go, even one second now"
Second half kick off delayed briefly
We're waiting to get synchronized with the Jamaica game, which kicked off late.
Other two sided competitions are available
There's some other issue being debated tonight, that you can also apparently follow on our website.
In a possibly related email Elliot Turner writes:
"It doesn't matter how much the US wins by, most Americans won't change their minds and will ultimately vote against Klinsi and for Mitt Romney this election."
Which is the sort of non-contentious comment that should make my life nice and easy in the second half...
Jamaica 2-0 up at half time
Nyron Nosworthy got on the score sheet for the second goal. Like me some Nyron. The deadlock was broken by a strike from distance by Phillips. Jamaica started the evening as long shots. They're going through as things stand.
Half time thoughts:
Well, that was a pretty breathless first half - with the US side having to come from an early goal down to force their way around the sides of the visiting defense and plunder three goals. The first goal was a shocker and will be doubtless picked up on regardless of results tonight, as Cameron, Bocanegra and Howard combined to make the tricky Ruiz look like a worldbeater.
But at the other end Dempsey looks like he's back, and Gomez and Johnson were consistently clever in their approach play - the latter looks like a player utterly inspired by the faith shown in him by his coach.
His coach, incidentally, went from concentrating very hard on not looking traumatized after five minutes, to punching the air as the third goal went in. What mood swings await for him in the second half?
@kidweil Pappa on at halftime. 100%— Stephen Piggott (@irish_steve) October 17, 2012
You would think so...
HALF TIME: USA 3 GUATEMALA 1
Half time thoughts in a moment.
45 mins +1: Only a minute to be added on. Rodriguez does good work in midfield but the Figueroa mucks up receiving his pass and that should be that...
44 mins: Taylor Twellman commentating for ESPN reckons the visitors will have to bring on Pappa at the half and go for this. Bradley runs deep and sends a cross in from a narrow angle that has to be defended at the expense of a corner...
@kidweil Have I ever used "Eddie Johnson" and "marauding" in the same sentence?I have now.— David Nelson (@ivanomartin) October 16, 2012
Been quite the return for him so far... Now he just misses connecting with a header from the corner.
42 mins: Guatemala have a glimmer of a chance but Figueroa is crowded out as he tries to get past the US back line.
Now they have a free kick just inside the USA half - they need to force the issue here now, but while Ruiz gets to the ball last, he can't direct a shot on target.
40 mins: Jamaica's goal difference is +2 right now, Guatemala have slipped up to +1. USA currently have no need for goal difference. They lead 3-1.
GOAL! USA 3 GUATEMALA 1 (DEMPSEY!)
Dempsey, from point blank range, makes it 3! Another ball swept into the box, that Bradley coolly lofts over the keeper for the advancing Dempsey to tap home. As it stands, Jamaica are going through.
36 mins: Lovely move there from the US as Johnson emerges from a cluster of defenders to slide a ball across the box that eventually lands at Zusi's feet in space. He rifles a low shot that's blocked, but in the follow up the USA win a corner. It's forced clear, but the USA, for better or worse, are still going forward...
34 mins: Bocanegra has a "chat" with Ruiz after that last incident. Ruiz is not fun to play against.
Dempsey twists and turns in midfield looking to get things moving. he looks more lively than in recent games. obviously playing for a club team regularly helps his fitness.
32 mins: Another attack, another cross, another instance of havocin the box as Gomez sends a low first time cross from the right that Dempsey can't quite disentangled from.
At the other end Ruiz goes down very easily on the edge of the box under Cameron's challenge, but he's offside anyway.
30 mins: Another deep Zusi cross is headed back across goal by Johnson and Gomez is only just denied by a last ditch push out by the goalkeeper.
Slight pause in proceedings as Parkhurst and Rodriguez are both in need of a little treatment. Both fine to continue though. Still USA 2 Guatemala 1
28 mins: Tempo still high here - this is a lot of fun to watch. US pressing, Guatemala countering cleverly.
US getting some joy down the flanks and now Gomez barrels forward to earn a corner. Zusi ambles across to take it...
...the US attackers dance around the zonal defense, but can't get a decisive touch on the ball.
26 mins: Zusi, the local boy, getting barged a little as he tries to get free in the left corner. He concedes a throw.
David Nelson's back, having noted Eddie Johnson's part in the second goal:
@kidweil say what you want about Klinsmann, you really must credit him for the Johnson selection.— David Nelson (@ivanomartin) October 16, 2012
24 mins: Jamaica have gone 2-0 up - which may be of some concern to Guatemala, who are now level on goal difference with Jamaica...
Parkhurst and Zusi combine and the former sends a tempting cross hanging up in the box, that Dempsey can't quite reach.
22 mins: Parkhurst is fouled by Figueroa as the Guatemalan gets up to crash a header from a corner off the crossbar. Another warning for the US. Don't go anywhere - twists and turns to come...
20 mins: Twenty minutes gone and the USA lead 2-1 - but only because Howard just got to a rasping Contreras shot from a narrow angle. This one is far from over with the US defense like this.
GOAL! USA 2 GUATEMALA 1 (DEMPSEY!)
Dempsey strokes home at point blank range! Johnson and Gomez switch sides on the restart from Guatemala's abortive corner, and with their markers confused the ball is swept across to Dempsey in the six yard box, who forces the ball home. Jurgen looks rather pleased.
Jamaica have scored too by the way.
18 mins: Now Guatemala attack again, and a deft little chip sends Ruiz, a player without a club, through behind the defense again. He's forced wide but at the expense of a corner, that the visitors manage to waste. Another warning for the US at the back. Hang on...
16 mins: The US are definitely pulling their opponents around a fair bit more than they did on Friday, and at greater pace - but still not finding a lot of space in the final third.
Dempsey tries to hit one from distance but it's charged down.
14 mins: Klinsmann shouting at Johnson to get to the touchline more, to give the US some more width.
12 mins: Still goalless in the other game by the way. And the crowd are singing again on the sidelines of this one...
Another long ball almost makes it through for Ruiz, but this time the central defenders cut it out. He'll have to be watched more carefully.
GOAL! USA 1 GUATEMALA 1 (BOCANEGRA!)
...relief for the US as Bocanegra slots home! Zusi's corner to the near post was flicked on by Dempsey, who'd drawn half the defense with him. Bocanegra tapped home from point blank range. Can they follow up on the momentum now?
10 mins: Zusi scampers forward again, but the ball across the box isn't followed in on by Dempsey and there's no real threat. Now Ruiz gets forward and calmly stretches the US defense for a first corner for the visitors. It's whipped in and headed safely clear at the near post.
At the other end Gomez does his bit to chase a lost cause down and earns a US corner...
7 mins: Almost immediately Johnson looks to set up an equalizer, but nobody can get a decisive touch in the six yard box. We're seeing replays of that non-handball decision just prior to the goal by the way, and it looked absolutely blatant.
GOAL! USA 0 GUATEMALA 1 (RUIZ!)
From nowhere Ruiz splits Bocanegra and Cameron to race free on a strangely indecisive looking Howard, who remains rooted to the spot as Ruiz takes it round him and slots home from a narrow angle. Terrible defending.
The stadium is very quiet right now...
4 mins: US already stroking the ball around quickly. As I said earlier, there wasn't going to be much stroking around done on that surface in Antigua.
Half a shout for handball as Gomez heads against a defender just outside the box. Looked obvious but no call. The US trying to push forward with intent though...
2 mins: ...Zusi takes it very very deep and it goes long and for a throw.
So much for synchronized kick offs by the way. The Jamaica game hasn't kicked off yet.
Now Zusi has a better cross whipped over that Gomez can't direct on target early.
Peep: And we're off. Long ball forward for Dempsey early who interacts well with Johnson to hustle a corner...
So the only change since Friday is Parkhurst in at left back - the position that everyone in America except me appears to have played under Klinsmann.
Roll your necks, refresh your dips and drinks.
Next word you see will be PEEP...
Teams coming out now
And now the anthems are being played/sung
David Nelson drops by with some free image consultancy...
I think Lalas actually plays the entertaining heel card very astutely to keep things lively. And he does dress nicely. Keller's more of a winter dresser. He rocks an overcoat and scarf combo like nobody's business.
Teams shaking hands now.
Huge noise in the stadium; flags everywhere etc. It looks great.
There was a little speculation as to whether Sporting Kansas City's stadium could generate the same sort of intense home atmosphere that Crew Stadium has always managed to whip up. Looks like the heartland has done the national team proud tonight.
We're just under eight minutes from kick off, according to the countdown clock that's making sure the Jamaica game kicks off at the same time.
Alexi Lalas speaks
Alexi Lalas is speaking again - saying he things Zusi needs a good game to give the US some width and the center backs need to close down Ruiz. Kasey Keller is nodding sagely and suggesting that it needs to be kept tight.
Alex is back, determined to clarify her position re: Guatemala.
@kidweil suspected it would come off condescending but meant it affectionately!— Alex Eckhout (@AlexEckhout) October 16, 2012
I'm struggling with the same questions of tone as I think about how to cover the Canada debacle.
Alex Eckhout drops by to tweet (and possibly patronize a little)
I don't think Pappa has started a first team game since leaving the Chicago Fire in the summer.
And 'little' Guatemala can more than hold their own, as they showed in the first game. No coincidence that players like Johnson, and even Alan Gordon, are in there in case things get physical.
Never mind the line ups, feel the catering. Paulo Bandini - the omnisporting genius who roams the globe, is in Livestrong Park tonight, taking a break from his Guardian NFL coverage. Here we get to the heart of the matter:
@kidweil Ha! Well I'm more of a brisket man given the choice, but sadly pressbox tonight is offering pasta and unidentified meat in sauce.— Paolo Bandini (@Paolo_Bandini) October 16, 2012
You're welcome... More as we get it...
USA: Howard; Cherundolo, Cameron, Bocanegra (capt.), Parkhurst; Zusi, Williams, Bradley, Johnson; Dempsey, Gomez
Guatemala: Jerez, Morales, Vasquez, Morales, Contreras, Lopez, Leon, Velasquez, Figueroa, Ruiz, Rodriguez
So Johnson back out on the left at the start of tonight's game. Interesting looking back line as well for the US.
No start for Marco Pappa. You may recall that it was his free kick goal that drew today's visitors level in the reverse fixture earlier this year.
@kidweil Alexi Lalas on ESPN says USMNT needs to not only win game, "but win decisively." No, Alexi, they need win. No extra pts for style.— Craig Gary Phillips (@craigary) October 16, 2012
Think there's a certain amount of expectation that's built up by some of Klinsmann's claims that he'll transform the style of the team. Still - point taken. I expect everyone involved would take a win from an own goal off a backside tonight...
One of the few bright spots of Friday's game and indeed throughout this segment of the qualifying campaign has been the performances of the Antigua and Barbuda team, particularly the pacy Blackstock up front and James in goal. They've held their own in most of the games they've been in, and with Jamaica having to go into tonight's game against them in cricket score mode, there'll be more than a few US fans seeking comfort in that fact.
Slightly less comforting, for those hoping for miserly defenses and no cricket scores tonight, if you're one of our Canadian readers you may want to look away now, and possibly for the next four years. Needing a draw with Honduras to confirm their own place in the Hexagonal, Canada...well, they didn't get a draw.
Final score: Honduras 8 Canada 1.
That's just horrible.
Still, the US only need a draw this evening...
A little perspective
Friday's game against Antigua & Barbuda was pretty dreadful - though having subsequently seen the state of the waterlogged field, the rather leaden display by the US is a little more understandable than I was prepared to give credit for on the night. And you have to say that bringing a player back into the fold to score both your sides' goals, with an assist from an MLS journeyman whose selection was even more left field, counts in the plus column of the ready reckoner we always keep handy to judge Coach Klinsmann - despite the ammunition that the rest of the display gave to his critics. Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon did everything that could reasonably have been asked of them, and while there was no Altidore, in the end there was no disaster on the swampy field at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium.
CLANG. SCRRRRRRAAAAAAPPPE. CLAAAAAANNNNKKKKK. SQUEEEEEAAAL.
Welcome to the grind™ of CONCACAF qualifying - a competition where teams try to outdo each other for the honor of...entering yet another round of the grind™. Yes, whichever two teams out of the USA, Guatemala and Jamaica gets through tonight's final semi-final round of qualifying games, they will still have play in a six-sided tournament for the further honor of making it to Brazil 2014 (CLANG. SCRAAA...etc)
At this point you probably know the permutations, but basically, thanks to Eddie Johnson's two goals from just inside the door marked "international wilderness" on Friday night, the US go into tonight's game with Guatemala knowing that a draw will take them through, and even certain combinations of a loss and a favorable result in Jamaica's game against Antigua & Barbuda will also do the trick - but noone on the US side wants it to come to that.
Here's the table as it stands:
Team GP GF GA GD Pts.
Guatemala 5 8 5 +3 10
United States 5 8 5 +3 10
Jamaica 5 5 5 0 7
Antigua 5 3 9 -6 1
Presuming you can read the spacing above, I think it means the US could lose 1-0 and Jamaica win 2-0 and the US still go through on goals scored. Perhaps the more Mayan prophecy-inclined among you have ideas of various other less palatable doomsday scenarios they can prove with mathematical reasoning. In which case - bring it on. Send me your tweets to @KidWeil or emails to email@example.com on that or any other subject and let's pass the time happily until the nervous last five minutes of the game come round. I'll be back shortly with more build up and team news, but in the meantime here are the "highlights" (and there possibly aren't enough inverted commas in the world to go round that last word) of the US game vs Antigua & Barbuda on Friday night.