The play and leadership of Michael Bradley (pictured) will be key for the USA in its World Cup qualifier against visiting Guatemala on March 29, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo: Mexsport)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- No one has to remind United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann about the importance of Tuesday's FIFA World Cup qualifier against visiting Guatemala (2W-0D-1L, 6 points) at MAPFRE Stadium.
A loss to the Chapines – combined with a Trinidad & Tobago (2-1-0, 7) win over St. Vincent & the Grenadines (0-0-3, 0) – will see the Americans (1-1-1, 4) fall five points off the Group C pace for a berth in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying with only two games left to play.
"Obviously, we came back not with the result we wanted in Guatemala," Klinsmann said Monday. "It makes the situation very clear: we need to win this game. There's a sense of urgency around tomorrow night because we need to get three points now."
A loss, following a 2-0 setback at Guatemala last week – would not be fatal to the USA’s hopes of advancing, but it would have to win its remaining matches against T&T (home) and SVG (away), while getting favorable results from other teams elsewhere.
Offering hope for bounce back is the fact that the U.S. will return to the MAPFRE, a venue in which it has never tasted defeat in 10 qualifiers (7-3-0), including four 2-0 wins against Mexico.
“We always said World Cup qualifying is a long road, a tricky road, a difficult road,” remarked Klinsmann. “If you lose, it makes it more difficult. Nothing is given to you for free. You have to work hard and get your points. We have to take responsibility for it, but we are confident we will get there.”
While Klinsmann talked a good game, midfielder Michael Bradley felt actions will ultimately prove more important than words.
“Just because we talk about a good response and taking care of things in the right way tomorrow night, there’s no telling what can happen, so we’ve got to be ready for that," expressed the Toronto FC star. “We’ve got to understand that.”
Midfielders Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City) and 17-year-old sensation Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund) were called into camp as defender-midfielder Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach) and defender Matt Besler (Kansas City) returned to their clubs with injuries.
The U.S. is winless in five of its last eight games and has not scored a WCQ goal in 196 minutes.