Kenny Cooper’s second-half strike and Freddy Adu’s first international goal sealed the deal as the United States eased past Guatemala on Wednesday night in Colorado.
USA 2 – 0 Guatemala
Los Chapines were in a do-or-die situation, but it was the Americans who came out looking hungry and ambitious. The centrepiece was 19-year-old Freddy Adu, who was the most creative player on the pitch and netted a spectacular free-kick to effectively seal the game in the 68th minute.
The US took the impetus in the match, but were unable to break through in the first 45. Centred on the consistent work of captain Pablo Mastroeni and his midfield partner Ricardo Clark, the US launched attack after attack through Adu, Kenny Cooper, Sacha Kljestan and Jozy Altidore.
In the 7th minute, Altidore did well to reach a through-ball from Clark, but the Villarreal striker was unable to get his shot off. A few minutes later, he should’ve taken the shot when he had the chance. A splitting pass from Kljestan released Altidore, but he crossed instead of going to goal and the chance went awry.
John Thorington got forward in the 22nd minute and was taken down in the box. The referee pointed, but only to indicate a goal kick, not a penalty! A poor decision.
Adu began twinkling his feet and causing havoc in the Guatemalan defence at this point. He started to fade before switching into what seemed a more liberal role towards the end of the first half. Around the half-hour mark he made a run at the defence, beat three Guatemalans and forced Ricardo Jerez Jr. into a good save.
A word about the visitors, who failed to reach the World Cup for the 12th time, with this loss. They tried hard but were rarely in the game, particularly in the first half, when they failed to muster barely a shot.
Two minutes after the restart, a great chance fell to Altidore. A gorgeous individual play to take down a long ball, but he chose to take an extra touch and then blasted his shot well high.
Three minutes later, Pando Ramirez, Guatemala’s only dangerous player, had two long-range shots, but both went well off target.
Finally, the USA broke through in the 55th. Altidore did well on the left side, beating his defender and picking out Cooper at the far post. The FC Dallas striker timed his slide and redirected the ball through Jerez's legs. It was classic Cooper, a good example of why fans have been clamouring for him to be called in.
The US kept pressing. Adu tested Jerez a few times, and Mastroeni fired a wicked knuckling shot that forced a competent save. A great chance for Kljestan, as Cooper created something on a cross. But Jerez made a huge save at the back post on the Chivas USA midfielder.
In the 67th minute, Altidore was dragged down by Yoni Flores in a dangerous area. Adu stepped up and drilled in the free-kick with a curling shot from 20 yards.
Only when the game was lost did the Central Americans trouble Brad Guzan in the US goal and the Aston Villa keeper was up to the challenge. Ramirez had the best chance, finding himself alone in the 87th minute, but Guzan blocked the ex-LA Galaxy man’s shot.
At the whistle, Bob Bradley should be happy with a job well done. He was able to look at some of the younger players an will have liked what he saw. His handshake with Adu when the youngster came off was sincere for sure. The kid played his socks off. It was his night, but not just his.
Nick Thomas writes occasionally for Goal.com. He also runs the WeWantRapidMan blog.