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Second-half strike by McBride propels U.S. past Guatemala 1-0.


U.S. accomplished mission by gaining three points despite ugly performance.

By Robert Wagman

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sunday, September 3, 2000) -- Despite a less than artistic performance, the United States earned the three points it needed today, using Brian McBride’s goal in the 72nd minute to defeat Guatemala 1-0 at sold-out RFK Stadium.

It was not easy, nor was it pretty, but in World Cup qualifying, winning is all that counts. Despite the victory, the U.S. still lacks maturity, and is going to have to learn how to be more effective in pressure situations such as today.

Guatemala came into the match with a specific game plan: put eight to 10 players behind the ball, defend like crazy, double-team both midfielder Claudio Reyna and striker Joe-Max Moore, counterattack when the opportunity presented itself, and hold on for dear life.

The Chapins executed their strategy perfectly for 72 minutes. Then Jovan Kirovski found an open Cobi Jones who served a perfect far-post cross to a sliding McBride for one of the most important goals of his international career.

During most of the first half, the U.S. was ineffectual in trying to break down the Guatemalans. Not only that, but it allowed Guatemala to push forward too often and coach Bruce Arena's charges were actually fortunate not to have given up a first half goal.

One of the most significant plays of the first half came in the 32nd minute when midfielder Earnie Stewart seemed to inadvertently get his feet tangled up with Juan Carlos Plata and both players went down. Referee Ulises Rangel saw it differently and showed a yellow card to Stewart, his second of the competition, which means he will have to sit out the qualifier against Costa Rica October 11 in Columbus, Ohio.

Plata did come out of the collusion limping and was forced to retire six minutes later. Up to that point, he had been one of the strongest players on the field for the visitors.

A lot will be made of Rangel's decision to send U.S. midfielder Eddie Lewis off. Lewis obviously does not believe he even committed a foul, much less a bookable offense, much less one that warranted dismissal. "I just extended my arm and he ran into it and then he flopped like they were doing all day," he said. "I was surprised there was even a whistle. When he reached for the red card, I felt sick."

But as annoyed as the U.S. was with the red card, and from television replays it was an understandable call, the Americans were incensed Rangel did not send off Fabricio Benitez for almost breaking Claudio Reyna's leg in the 76th minute.

"It was a completely reckless charge," Reyna said, displaying the deep cleat gashes on the side of his knee. "It was deliberate and he (Rangel) does not even call a foul. I just can't understand that."

It appears that Reyna is not seriously injured.

The U.S. knew what Guatemala was going to do today, so Arena fashioned a game plan to counter the packed in defense he knew the Americans would face. The U.S. did not execute badly, getting the ball down the wings and into good position. Too often, however, the crosses were off the mark or opportunities went unfinished.

Too often, the U.S. tried to force the ball through numerous defenders with the predictable result.

A win is a win, three points is three points, and the U.S. is now well positioned to advance, but 3-0 today would have felt much better.

U.S. player ratings


Goalkeeper Kasey Keller - 7: Not a busy afternoon, but he was in exactly the right spot when he had to be, especially on the point-blank header three minutes from the end. Did all you could ask of a keeper.

Defender David Regis - 6: Played very well at times, both offensively and defensively, but too often when he pushed forward his crosses and delivery was deficient, sometimes seriously so. If he could start delivering quality crosses, the U.S. would be a lot more of a threat.

Defender Eddie Pope - 7: This is the Eddie Pope before the injuries. Played a excellent game defensively, and was just off the mark, by a matter of inches, with headers on three occasions. Showed today why he is such an important player for the U.S. When he healthy, he is a critical for the U.S.

Defender Gregg Berhalter - 7.5: Earlier this week, a news story speculated the U.S. was in trouble because its back line was "getting old." Berhalter showed today, that at age 26 has arrived as the U.S. center back. He was nothing short of terrific. Did absolutely everything asked of a defender. He was steady under heavy pressure at times, and covered for Pope whenever he pushed up into the offense. Even had one very good chance himself, that was shot only inches wide.

Defender Tony Sanneh - 5: Effectively played an attacking midfield position. Was not called on defensively very often. Did not play badly, but also did not really make his presence felt. An average performance when more was needed.

Midfielder John O'Brien - 6.5: Was more than just effective filling in the injured Chris Armas. May not have the defensive tenacity of Armas, but is much more an offensive weapon. Not only played in the middle, but on the left side when Lewis was sent off.

Midfielder Claudio Reyna - 6.5: A extremely difficult afternoon for the playmaker. He was doubled teamed almost constantly, which caused him problems. But he continued to provide much of the creative spark for the U.S. and set up players on a number of occasions. Not his best effort, but certainly good enough under the circumstances.

Midfielder Jovan Kirovski 6: An uneven match. At times was the best player on the field for the U.S., but then disappeared for long stretches. At times provided a needed offensive spark, but too often served the ball poorly. Made a huge mental mistake in the closing minutes when he tried a long shot instead of holding the ball to kill the clock. But showed he clearly will be a significant factor for some time to come.

Midfielder Earnie Stewart - 6.5: During much of the first half was the offense for the U.S. But he seemed to tire badly and was substituted with about a half hour to go. As in the past, his pace created some brilliant chances, but he continues to be a poor finisher. If he can begin to convert some of the chances, will be a tremendous asset.

Forward Joe-Max Moore - 6: Just one of those days. Did not play badly, but was tightly marked at all times and was only able to create a few chances and was not able to convert. A solid performance, but the U.S. needs more from him.

Forward Brian McBride - 6.5: Scored the goal and worked tirelessly. But despite the effort, was ineffective for large portions of the match. Given the generally poor service on crosses, much of this was not his fault. But he is another player who needs to do better.


Midfielder Eddie Lewis (58th minute) - no rating: Was in the match only six minutes before getting red carded. Probably did not deserve red, but not an intelligent play on his part.

Midfielder Cobi Jones (58th minute) - 8: Quite simply, the man who won the match for the U.S. Not only provided the offensive spark the U.S. needed, but played tough defense in the final minutes. Has been tiring in the last few national team matches. Might actually be more effective coming off the bench. But, almost certainly, earned a start against Costa Rica.

Defender Carlos Llamosa (77th minute) - 7: Was put in to keep Guatemala off the scoresheet and did the job. A strong 15-minute performance. Still may be the best man marker the U.S. has.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com.

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