I've never been a huge fan of that 'better to be lucky than good' phrase, but it certainly applied on Tuesday night to the USMNT's performance against Guatemala. The US was very lucky to not have lost, and they were certainly not what I would call good during that performance.
It really wasn't bad though. More of just a general mediocrity around the entire squad. When I said that the defense would be key to the game, I saw a performance like this one coming. Marco Pappa sliced up the US defense all sorts of ways and the defense -- other than Fabian Johnson -- wasn't particularly efficient at getting the ball forward, instead forcing Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones to backtrack to get the ball most of the time. That limited their ability to get forward quickly and consequently, the strikers didn't see as much of the ball as they did against Scotland, Brazil or Antigua.
Clint Dempsey scored the first goal of the match in the 40nd minute off some brilliant footwork and a lovely pass by Johnson. It was actually a well deserved lead at that point, the US had played solid possession ball in the first half. Unfortunately, they still had to play the second half. Guatemala turned it on in the second, playing a punchy counter attack style that saw them get tons of chances on goal. Carlos Ruiz in particular had a stinker of a miss, but the US couldn't hold them off forever and an 83rd minute free kick tied it up.
The good news? Jamaica couldn't hold off Antigua & Barbuda so the US is still at the top of their qualifying group.
Player ratings after the jump...Tim Howard - 6
Should have done better on that free kick, but it's hard to fault this game on him considering the handful of solid saves he had made prior to it.
Steve Cherundolo - 4.5
Bit of an up and downer for Cherundolo. His runs forward were very sporadic and his defense was nothing to write home about.
Clarence Goodson - 5
Goodson didn't have a very memorable match, in fact he was pretty much invisible through the half he played in.
Carlos Bocanegra - 6
Captain America put in a vintage performance, solid defending.
Fabian Johnson - 5.5
This was about as hot and cold a game as you can get, in that Fabian was responsible for both goals that were scored on the night! He was altogether impressive and continues to look like the future of the USMNT at fullback.
Maurice Edu - 6
Mistakes marred a pretty good game by Edu. He played great defense in the midfield and shut down a lot of passes but committed some boneheaded fouls and the like.
Michael Bradley - 6.5
He played like Michael Bradley plays. This is a good thing.
Jermaine Jones - 5
Let's not get into that free kick he took near the end, shall we? Instead, we'll talk about his good midfield defemdng and solid passing game.
Landon Donovan - 5.5
Not enough trademark 'spark' during the game, but he was one of the better distributors going forward.
Clint Dempsey - 7
Had a great goal and unlike many others on the team, shot it whenever the ball was at his feet looking for a second.
Herculez Gomez - 4.5
Nothing to write home about for Gomez. His most memorable moment was a free kick that went 40 yards over the net.
(SUB) Geoff Cameron - 4
To give you an idea of how much of an effect that Cameron had on the game, I had no idea that he had replaced Goodson until about 30 minutes after the fact.
(SUB) Jozy Altidore - 3
Hey, remember that time that Jozy Altidore was really good in that game past 2009? Yeah, me neither.