CHAD WINGER - Friday, June 8, 2007
United States vs Guatemala
CONCACAF Gold Cup - Thursday June 7, 2007
A solitary Clint Dempsey strike was enough to overcome a second half Oguchi Onyewu red card as the United States opened their Gold Cup title defense in Carson, California.
The United States opened towards Lalas Hill, captain Carlos Bocanegra anchoring the defense with Oguchi Onyewu and flanked by Frankie Hejduk and Jonathan Bornstein.
Landon Donovan returned after missing the previous match with China, while Taylor Twellman was given the start ahead of on-fire Kansas City Wizard Eddie Johnson.
Moments in, Clint Dempsey was hacked down to the left side of the box, creating a dead ball situation. The free kick was delivered by Donovan, but Los Chapines keeper Ricardo Trigueno punched clear.
Trigueno's effort was played back in and eventually fell to Benny Feilhaber who earned a corner by blasting a shot off the defense. Donovan again took the set piece, but Bocanegra's header, though on frame, was denied by Trigueno.
Seven minutes in, Dempsey was again felled by the Guatemala defense, and again a free kick from the left was sent in by Donovan. The off-target delivery was of no consequence, though, as Jose Pineda whistled an infraction on the US and brought play to a halt.
The US continued to be the brighter of the two nations, and Donovan started a quick one-two with DaMarcus Beasley in the 12th which was broken up by Gustavo Cabrera and sent the other way.
The quasi-counterattack ended when former LA Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz flopped theatrically on a meek challenge from Onyewu, leading to an eventual wasted free kick.
Approaching the 20 minute mark, Bradley experiment Jonathan Bornstein was abused by Martin Avila on the touchline, the CD Suchitepéquez player eluding the CD Chivas player who crossed in for Ruiz.
The effort was well off target, but Bocanegra tried his best to make Jeff Agoos proud by wickedly shanking his clearance just past a frozen Tim Howard's left post.
The active Dempsey was efficient in putting in a misdirected side-footed pass for Beasley, but the PSV Eindhoven midfielder could only glance his wormburner across the face of goal.
Moments later, Dempsey would team up with former Revolution teammate Taylor Twellman, and the US would take the lead.
Twellman, abused his defender by receiving an excellent headed pass from Beasley on the dead run and dribbled to almost the endline. The New England all-time leading scorer had to only deliver a simple touch to a streaking Dempsey and the Fulham man made no mistake from close range to stake the US to the 26th minute lead.
"Starting with the goal against Liverpool to last weekend against China to today, I'm just riding on confidence right now," Dempsey said later. "When you play with confidence, you play your best and I'm starting to get sharp again."
Guatemala staged a quick reply and earned a free kick deep in the US end. Carlos Quinones' free kick was too far adrift of Howard's goal, however, and the chance was wasted.
In the 36th, Onyewu was caught napping and let a useless ball fall for Jose Contreras. The pint-sized attacker was able to put a lucky roundhouse kick over for an abandoned Ruiz, but Onyewu recovered well with a lunging clearance to avert the sure equalizer.
Two minutes later, Donovan made his best contribution of the match when he ran on to a ball on the right flank and headed towards the Guatemala goal. Spotting Twellman making a near post run, the Galaxy forward put his cross on the money, but Twellman blew the golden opportunity by driving his header high.
In injury time Donovan had a last gasp shot that bounded off a pair of defenders and fell out to Twellman who saw his shot finish with the same result. Dempsey was on hand for a potential third attempt, but Pablo Melgar was able to clear as the whistle sounded.
Two minutes of possession after the interval, Beasley and Feilhaber combined on a clean action which eventually sprung Donovan on to a through-ball in the box and to Trigueno's left. The chance fizzled out, though, as the 24-year old could not muster the required power to beat the keeper.
In the 51st minute Howard nearly paid the price for daydreaming after Ruiz won a free kick from an Onyewu foul. The free kick was played back, and Leonel Noriego attempted an audacious long-range lob that a backpedaling Howard was just able to get a finger tip to and push over the bar.
Seven minutes later Beasley eluded Albizuris down the flank and left-footed a cross for Dempsey at the spot. Though having a foot on Melgar, the Texan was unable to convert as his shot went over the bar.
A minute later Hejduk was lucky to not get his second yellow by clocking Ruiz just outside the area. El Pesacadito took the free kick which made it through the mass of legs, but Howard saved comfortably.
Back the other way Twellman, like a center posting up in the lane received an accurate pass from Donovan with his back to the goal and held just long enough to allow the #10 to find a seam for the return pass.
Twellman put his pass in Donovan's path, but Cabrera bravely took out the American with an excellent tackle to end the threat.
In the 61st, Johnson replaced goal-scorer Dempsey, and five minutes later was the centerpiece in a quadrangular move begun and ended by Donovan that resulted in an emergency intervention from Henry Medina.
Seven minutes later Onyewu handed Guatemala a man advantage by upending substitute Mario Rodriguez with a crunching tackle deep in the US zone. Pineda wasted no time in sending the Standard Liege man to the showers by flashing a second yellow and then the red. Ruiz wasted the resulting free kick.
"The sending off was unfortunate," Everton keeper Tim Howard told YA following the contest about the play. "[Onyewu] was sitting on a yellow card and the referee wasn't going let that go."
"In that sense it was fair, but it's unfortunate because that first card was phantom. But that's the way it is."
Bocanegra soon entered the book for yet another foul on Ruiz, who blasted yet another poor free kick wide, but Howard was taking no chances and dove to his right.
With the man advantage, and the full support of the "home" crowd, Guatemala stepped up the pressure over the next spell, forcing Bradley to insert Watford defender Jay DeMerit in place of Feilhaber.
Three minutes later that decision paid dividends when a poor Hejduk turnover was picked up by Ruiz who turned and ran in towards goal. DeMerit showed Ruiz how they do it in England by cleanly tackling down the FC Dallas striker and earning US possession.
A last ditch corner, of which Trigueno joined the fray by abandoning his goal, was caught by Howard and Pineda blew his whistle seconds later to end the contest.
"When you start a tournament like the Gold Cup, there is the expectation that the first game will be difficult," head coach Bob Bradley commented at the postgame press conference. "They are a very well organized team, very hard to play against."
"We ended up playing with 10 guys, and I thought we adjusted quite well and managed during that period of the game to keep the ball and also to defend intelligently."
The US face Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday in the second of three group stage matches. The Soca Warriors lost their opener 2-1 to El Salvador.