"This stadium and these people have bailed us out on a lot of occasions." said U.S. National Team captain Michael Bradley immediately after the final whistle. The United States needed bailing out after dropping a 2-0 decision in Guatemala on Friday that significantly set back World Cup Qualification hopes for 2018. The team came to Columbus needing a refuge, the ultimate home field advantage that the National Team has, Mapfre Stadium. With a dominant 4-0 win against Guatemala in front of a partisan crowd, qualifying is back on track.
Neither team was able to get off a shot in the opening minutes as the home side struggled to get into the flow of the game and Guatemala had few rare chances to get forward that the U.S. was able to easilty snuff out, often with the quick action of Kyle Beckerman and Deandre Yedlin clamping down before any real danger.
For the lack of offensive flow early, it was out of a well struck, hopeful ball into the penalty box by Geoff Cameron that would create the opener. The Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes knocked down the ball between two falling Guatemalan defenders. Clint Dempsey picked up the ball free in the box and drilled the shot for the 12th minute 1-0 lead.
With the crowd fully behind them, the United States gained confidence, even if the passes were still errant. The home side would control the ball following the goal, but only had a long distance Michael Bradley shot to show for the effort.
The Americans soon gained control with a 35th minute goal to double the advantage. Bobby Wood drew a foul that allowed the U.S. to bring bodies forward. Bradley bent in an excellent free kick that Geoff Cameron headed past keeper Paulo Motta. The visitors had a mountain to climb and hadn't looked capable all game.
Wood nearly put the game out of reach just before halftime. He perfectly timed his run and Bradley found him with an excellent ball. He was one on one with the keeper, but his chipped effort went well wide of goal and was actually picked up by Zardez. A shot so poor, Opta classified it as a completed pass.
The third goal came immediately after the break. Yedlin broke forward and cut past his defender. He found Zardez in the box. A poor touch landed fortuitously for Graham Zusi who finished far post.
The Americans then ceded possession in the second half with the commanding lead, but were prepared to strike on the counter. The visitors would see much of the ball, but a strong American back line again snuffed out danger before it became serious. Guatemala only had three shots, two of them off target for the entire half.
The cushion and level of control allowed Jurgen Klinsmann a rare amount of flexibility in games that count. With the result in hand, he brought in Jozy Altidore, reintroducing him coming off an injury. He then turned to the hometown hero, Ethan Finlay in the 71st minute, giving the Crew SC winger a chance to play in front of the home crowd. He then gave a debut cap to 17 year old Christian Pulisic. Perhaps Klinsmann would have made a different decision in a closer game, but they also paid off.
Finlay made the quickest impact with his fresh legs and speed against a tired defense. He nearly opened his account for the National Team in the 85th minute. Playing off of Altidore, he collected a pass in the box, took a touch wide and cooly finished only to see it was incorrectly waved off for offside. Replays showed him on by a significant margin.
Altidore would collect a goal in the 89th minute after Dempsey picked up a turnover from Crew SC rookie Rodrigo Saravia. Dempsey would cut into the box, but then dropped a slick pass to Altidore, who ripped a shot into the corner of the open net to make it 4-0.
With the talk surrounding Klinsmann's tenure with the National Team, the team being bereft of confidence, or the attendance concerns, a World Cup Qualifier failing to sellout, none of that mattered. Klinsmann's decisions mostly paid off. The U.S. played up to potential as they manhandled an overpowered Guatemala squad that just stunned them. As far as the crowd, the fans once again showed why Mapfre is the true home of the United States Men's National Team.