The U.S. national team’s World Cup 2018 qualification hopes were given a significant boost Tuesday as it moved up to second in CONCACAF Group C with a 4-0 win over Guatemala in Columbus.
Clint Dempsey settled U.S. fans’ nerves early on in the encounter with a drilled effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the box at Mapfre Stadium.
Geoff Cameron provided a cushion with a well-taken header before Graham Zusi and Jozy Altidore wrapped up a comfortable win in the second half.
Under-fire U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann made five changes to the side that was beaten 2-0 in the Guatemalan capital Friday, knowing a positive result was vital to their hopes of reaching the fifth “Hexagonal” round of qualifying.
The U.S. began the contest on the front foot and got the early goal it desired.
With 12 minutes played, Zusi lofted a floated ball toward Gyasi Zardes at the top of the box and he did well to knock down a header to the onrushing Dempsey, who met the loose ball with a vicious strike into the bottom corner, leaving goalkeeper Paulo Motta helpless.
Walter Claveri’s side was unable to maintain possession for any lengthy period throughout the first half an hour and appeared nervous due to the Americans’ high pressing from Michael Bradley and midfield partner Zusi.
With 35 minutes on the clock, Cameron doubled the home side’s advantage.
Bradley sent an in-swinging free kick into the box for the Stoke City defender to meet unmarked and thunder a perfect header past Motta for his fourth international goal.
Bobby Wood should have put the U.S. three goals up before halftime but completely miscued his attempt from 6 yards, scuffing his shot well wide of goal after Bradley found the Union Berlin winger free in the box.
The U.S. secured a three-goal lead just 18 seconds into the second half as DeAndre Yedlin picked up possession on the right and darted toward the area before slipping a low ball into the box. The recalled Zusi pounced on the loose ball and found the far corner to put the hosts out of sight.
The Americans cruised for the remainder of the tie, with the Guatemalans offering little other than one Carlos Ruiz strike that Brad Guzan collected comfortably.
Late substitute Ethan Finlay found the back of the net in front of his domestic club supporters with five minutes remaining but saw his strike incorrectly ruled offside by the officials.
But the Americans did get their fourth goal of the night after Altidore thumped in an 89th-minute strike following an awful mistake from Guatemala’s center back.
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