The long march begins again for the US MNT, which kicks off the semifinal round of World Cup Qualifying with a match at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City tonight at 10p ET (ESPN2) against the host country's chapines.
The Yanks are 10-4-5 all-time vs. Guatemala in a series that began in 1977 with four straight losses to the Central American nation. The US hasn't lost to the chapines since a 1-0 decision in January of 1988 (15 matches). In fact, Guatemala hasn't scored since a 1-1 draw in July of 2000 (6 matches ago) in qualifying for the Japan/Korea World Cup.
Will the US be overconfident? Unlikely. Despite the overwhelming historical advantage, the Yanks have only managed draws in each of its last three appearances in Guatemala. Fact is, winning on the road in World Cup qualifying is an immense challenge, where the crowds, temperatures, and field conditions usually provide the home side with a fighting chance. It was only during the 2006 World Cup cycle that the US proved its ability to win on the road, taking three points at Trinidad and Panama early in the hexagonal en route to an qualification.
On the field, Bob Bradley will field an experienced lineup that should prove more impactful that the experimental one that played for the US in a scoreless draw on 9/7/05, the last WCQ in Guatemala (thought the Yanks had already qualified for WC 06):
That lineup: Hahnemann, Albright, Marshall, Conrad, Vanney, Quaranta (Donovan), Mastroeni, Dempsey (Ralston), Convey, Twellman, Cunningham (Johnson)
Tonight's lineup (proposed): Howard, Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Oneywu, Pearce, Lewis, Bradley, Mastroeni, Beasley, Donovan, Dempsey
Tonight's experienced lineup averages 51 caps/player, and shouldn't be rattled by Estadio Mateo Flores, or the Guatemalans, who have never qualified for the World Cup.
Tonight's other CONCACAF Group A match finds Cuba hosting Trinidad and Tobago. In Group B, Canada hosts Jamaica at BMO Field, and Mexico takes to the Azteca field vs. Honduras. Group C matches include a Central American battle between El Salvador at Costa Rica, and Caribbean one: Surinam at Haiti.
Edu, Guzan, Kljestan and Bradley have traveled from the Beijing Olympics to Guatemala in time for the match, but may be too jet-lagged to be effective. Edu traveled from China to Scotland, where he's about to join Glasgow Rangers, to Guatemala. Talk about frequent flier miles!
Hooray For Steel! The newly renamed Red Bull Arena started going vertical yesterday in Harrison NJ. Plans are for a September 2009 opening, should the Winter allow.