World Cup Qualifying: USA Rebounds With Dominating

World Cup Qualifying: USA Rebounds With Dominating 2-0 Win Over Guatemala in BirminghamYanks WinBIRMINGHAM Ala. (From USSoccer.Com) — The U.S. Men’s National Team defeated Guatemala in front of a raucous crowd of 31624 fans at Legion Field in Birmingham Ala. on Wednesday evening to move solidly into second place in the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region. The victory came courtesy of goals from Eddie Johnson and Steve Ralston on either side of halftime and a stifling defensive performance from goalkeeper Kasey Keller who earned his 37th career shutout for the U.S."It was a very good performance from our team said U.S. manager Bruce Arena after the game. "Probably the final score is not an indication of our dominance. I think we were very good tonight. If were at fault at anything it's not finishing off a few more plays. But I think it's one of those nights where you can't single out any one player for a good performance because there were a number of them. Basically our entire team played well. It's a great performance after three games with two on the road and six points. We're right on schedule so I'm pleased."The U.S. completely dominated play in the first half out-shooting Guatemala 14-3 but were only able to sneak one shot past goalkeeper Richard Trigueno when Johnson extended his torrid scoring pace with another highlight reel goal. In scoring for the eighth time in eight career caps Johnson slammed a 12-yard shot off the right post after collecting a back-heel touch from Landon Donovan in the penalty area. Donovan was sprung on the play in the 11th minute with a perfectly placed ball into the penalty area from Pablo Mastroeni.The goal was Johnson’s seventh in World Cup qualifying play after just six games and incredibly moved him into a tie with Brian McBride for second all-time in U.S. World Cup qualifying history a history that spans 71 years.Despite the team’s barrage of shots the U.S. did not put the game out of reach until 68th minute when Steve Ralston used a calm touch in the area to deftly flick a shot from six yards past Trigueno. On the play Ralston collected a challenging ball that began with a wicked cross from Eddie Lewis that sliced through the area and was redirected with a slight touch by Eddie Johnson in the penalty area.The cross into the area was standard for Lewis who dominated down the left flank and was able to play an array of dangerous balls into the penalty area throughout the match. Equally impressive in just his third World Cup qualifer was Ralston who buzzed the midfield for 90 minutes creating all sorts of problems for Guatemala."It's just nice to play the way we want to play at home said Donovan following the match. "We have two big guys in front of the goal and (Ralston and Lewis) put the ball exactly where it needs to be every time. Every time they cross the ball it's dangerous. They were fantastic. It was good to see (Ralston) get rewarded for his goal."Three minutes before the game’s second goal the United States thought they had extended their lead when Landon Donovan finished off a Lewis cross with a perfect header into the net. Donovan however was adjudged to be offside and was denied a chance to open his 2005 goal-scoring account. The assist for Donovan on the first goal was the 18th of his young career and quietly moved him into a second place tie with Claudio Reyna on the USA’s all-time assist leaders list (just four behind all-time leader Cobi Jones).Just a few seconds before Ralston’s tally Johnson had two efforts from inside the area with the first being a shot that was saved nicely from Trigueno but before being cleared was swatted down by the hand of defender Nestor Martinez. While the U.S. appealed for a handball Guatemala attempted to clear the bouncing ball seeing it eventually pop into the air perfectly for Johnson how skied for a perfectly executed bicycle kick that just missed the mark."Obviously in this game you saw that we were able to press quite high the entire game said Keller who now has an amazing 15 shutouts in World Cup qualifiers. "You just can't do that at 7500 feet and in that smog in Mexico. That was our game plan to put them under pressure and cough up a few balls to create a few chances. We could have scored five or six today but you have to give credit to Guatemala. They kept in the game and had a couple of chances at the end to get back into the game."The victory moves the U.S. into second place in the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying play with six points in the CONCACAF region just one point behind Mexico who were held to a 1-1 draw in Panama on Wednesday evening. In the other game on Matchday 3 Costa Rica struggled to 0-0 draw.The U.S. won’t play another match until the end of May when they suit up at Soldier Field in Chicago in a highly-anticipated match against England on May 28. The game will be followed just a week later by back-to-back qualifiers on June 4 against Costa Rica in Salt Lake City Utah and on June 8 against Panama in Panama City.U.S. vs. Guatemala Quote Sheet --- World Cup Qualifier – March 30 2005U.S. Head Coach Bruce ArenaOpening Comments:"It was a very good performance from our team. Probably the final score is not an indication of our dominance. I think we were very good tonight. If were at fault at anything it’s not finishing off a few more plays. But I think it’s one of those nights where you can’t single out any one player for a good performance because there were a number of them. Basically our entire team played well. It’s a great performance after three games with two on the road and six points. We’re right on schedule so I’m pleased.""Our top five attacking players played quite well tonight. Ralston and Lewis on the flanks were excellent. It was a great effort.""We had to get points tonight. We’re pleased. It’s important to win your games at home. If you would have asked me after three games we want to have five points and we have six. So we’re a little bit ahead of the curve right now."On comparing Guatemala win to Mexico loss:"You can never compare games. It’s a completely different game. I can say this until I’m blue in the face but you can’t play like this in altitude as a visiting team. You just can’t do it. I know you people can’t appreciate that. You’re gonna come up with great theories on we didn’t play two strikers or this or that. That’s idiotic. It’s really about adapting to those conditions and it’s difficult. You play one of the best teams in the world in difficult conditions. You cannot play the kind of game we were able to play tonight."On missed opportunities in the first half:"You go in at halftime and scratch your head. We could have had three goals at halftime. And when you have a team like Guatemala with Ruiz he could pull off a play at anytime. He might be able to sell a penalty kick which he tried tonight. So you never know. We’re at fault for keeping them around for too long. It took us too long to get the second goal. That would be our criticism tonight. Ruiz was a handful and we won that battle."Goalkeeper Kasey KellerOn coming off of Mexico loss:"Obviously in this game you saw that we were able to press quite high the entire game. You just can’t do that at 7500 feet and in that smog in Mexico. That was our game plan to put them under pressure and cough up a few balls to create a few chances. We could have scored five or six today but you have to give credit to Guatemala. They kept in the game and had a couple of chances at the end to get back into the game."Forward Landon DonovanOn the match:"First of all Pablo is awesome. It made my job a lot easier. It’s just nice to play the way we want to play at home. We have two big guys in front of the goal and they put the ball exactly where it needs to be every time. Everytime they cross the ball it’s dangerous. They were fantastic. It was good to see (Ralston) get rewarded for his goal.""We played 15 or 16 games without losing and we have one bad five minutes against a very good team at an incredible altitude and nasty smog and all of a sudden we’re the worst team in CONCACAF. This should make for some peace and quiet for a week. We needed that."On first goal:"It was kind of a layoff and then Eddie (Johnson) did well to finish it."-- U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report –Match-up: USA vs. Guatemala Date: March 30 2005Competition: FIFA World Cup QualifierVenue: Legion Field – Birmingham AlabamaKickoff: 7 p.m. CTAttendance: 31624Weather: 75 scattered cloudsScoring Summary: 1 2 F USA 1 1 2Guatemala 0 0 0Scoring: USA – Eddie Johnson (Landon Donovan) 11th minute.USA – Steve Ralston (Eddie Johnson) 68.Lineups:USA: 18-Kasey Keller (Capt.); 6-Steve Cherundolo 22-Oguchi Onyewu 12-Cory Gibbs 4-Carlos Bocanegra; 25-Pablo Mastroeni 14-Steve Ralston 7-Eddie Lewis (13-Pat Noonan 84) 21-Landon Donovan (2-Clint Dempsey 91+); 9-Eddie Johnson 21-Brian Ching (16-Josh Wolff 79)Subs not used: 22-Kevin Hartman 3-Gregg Berhalter 5-Chris Albright 20-Brian McBrideHead Coach: Bruce Arena.GUA: 22-Richard Trigueno 3-Pablo Melgar 4-Denis Chen (24-Maynor Davila 46) 6-Gustavo Cabrera13-Nestor Martinez; 7-Fredy Thompson 8-Gonzalo Romero (18-Carlos Quinonez 46) 11-Guillermo Ramirez 19-Mario Rodriguez (23-Hernan Sandoval 69); 17-Dwight Pezzarossi 20-Carlos RuizSubs not used: 1-Miguell Klee 2-Nelson Morales 12-Carlos Figueroa 15-Juan Carlos Plata. Head Coach: Ramon Maradiaga.Misconduct Summary: GUA – Carlos Ruiz (caution) 73rd minute.GUA – Carlos Quinonez (caution) 89.USA – Clint Dempsey (caution) 91+Officials:Referee: Ramesh Ramdhan (TRI)1st Asst.: Lyndon Burton (TRI)2nd Asst.: Joseph Taylor (TRI)Fourth Official: Neil Brizan (TRI)ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Steve Ralston