It's a cliche that there are no style points in World Cup qualifying. Just results. The US embodied that cliche last night in a 1-0 victory in Guatemala City in a match that announcer Glenn Davis correctly called a "street fight."
The US did a few things right, plenty wrong, and a few not so well in taking three away points to start the semifinal round of WC 2010 CONCACAF qualifying.
What the US did right:
-Scoring the lone goal, of course, on a clinical header by captain Carlos Bocanegra off a corner kick from DeMarcus Beasley in the 69th minute.
-Shutting down Guatemalan chances in injury time to kill off the match.
-Bringing in Frankie Hejduk and Maurice Edu late to provide needed tenacity and energy on D.
-Starting Tim Howard, who was an absolute rock in goal. My man of the match.
What the US did wrong:
-Retaliate, especially Steve Cherundolo's second yellow for grabbing an opposing player by the ankle after getting mugged for 10 seconds by said player without a call. Losing an experienced defender to a red card on the road in WC qualifying is a massive gaffe, and Cherundolo should have known better.
-Allowing Guatemala's Mario Rodriguez free range on the right side of the attack to create chances.
What the US didn't do so well
-Play with any attacking flow whatsoever.
-Make smart passes out of the back to start attacks.
-Stop Carlos Ruiz from getting chances in the box.
Last night was the first WCQ win at Guatemala in US history, so the accomplishment shouldn't go unnoticed. There's no denying the ugly nature of the win, though. If the Yanks can get another three points at Cuba on September 6th, they'll all but coast to next year's Hexagonal. Let's hope the US can hold the ball more and play with a little more confidence in Havana.