USA's Clint Dempsey (pictured) speaks with the media prior to a recent training session in Miami Shores, Florida.
MIAMI SHORES, Florida -- When the United States takes the Estadio Mateo Flores field for its FIFA World Cup qualifier against host Guatemala on Friday night, striker Clint Dempsey expects to face both friend and foe.
There’s much at stake in the CONCACAF Group C fourth-round encounter in Guatemala City. The Americans (1W-1D-0L, 4 points) top the table on goal difference over Trinidad & Tobago (1-1-0, 4) as third-place Guatemala (1-0-1, 3) looms within striking distance.
Dempsey, who has netted 13 goals in 34 all-time qualifiers, anticipates a challenging environment.
"It's always difficult playing teams in CONCACAF away," he commented. "You can really feel that home-field advantage. It's always a hostile crowd. They support their team very passionately."
The key to managing the game is for players to keep their concentration and stay away from getting carded, Dempsey stressed.
The 33-year-old forward added that the Americans must take "the energy from the fans and use it to your benefit instead of letting it affect how you play and not be confident. You've got to go out and impose your game on the other team. It'll be a tough challenge, but that's what qualifying is all about."
Dempsey's friend is former Seattle Sounders teammate and current Guatemala midfielder Marco Pappa, who now plays with the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer.
"He's a great guy, a great teammate," Dempsey said. "I enjoyed playing with him. He's very skillful. I miss him. I wish he was still with Seattle. He has done well for Guatemala. If he plays again, I'm sure he will do great."
Pappa certainly did in a 1-1 draw with the USA in a 2012 qualifier in Guatemala City, connecting for the equalizer on a late free kick.
"We thought we were going to get three points and we ended up leaving with one," Dempsey finished. "It was a tough game. They were very passionate fans. You think it will be a similar atmosphere this time around."