- U.S. Moves Solidly Into Second Place with Six Points Following First Three Qualifiers
- Eddie Johnson & Steve Ralston Strike in Each Half to Lead USA to Victory
- Keller Earns 37th Career Shutout to Extend His U.S. MNT Record
- U.S. Resumes Qualifying on June 4 in Salt Lake City vs. Costa Rica, One Week After England Match in Chicago on May 28
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (March 30, 2005) — The U.S. Men’s National Team defeated Guatemala in front of a raucous crowd of 31,624 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 7,500 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, 2005
U.S. Head Coach Bruce Arena
“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 Keller
On 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 7,500 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 Donovan
On 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, 2005
Competition: FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Venue: Legion Field – Birmingham, Alabama
Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Weather: 75, scattered clouds
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
Guatemala 0 0 0
USA – Eddie Johnson (Landon Donovan) 11th minute.
USA – Steve Ralston (Eddie Johnson) 68.
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 McBride
Head Coach: Bruce Arena.
GUA: 22-Richard Trigueno, 3-Pablo Melgar, 4-Denis Chen (24-Maynor Davila, 46), 6-Gustavo Cabrera,
13-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 Ruiz
Subs not used: 1-Miguell Klee, 2-Nelson Morales, 12-Carlos Figueroa, 15-Juan Carlos Plata,
Head Coach: Ramon Maradiaga.
Stats Summary: USA GUA
Shots 19 10
Saves 5 4
Corner Kicks 7 4
Fouls 25 14
Offside 1 6
GUA – Carlos Ruiz (caution) 73rd minute.
GUA – Carlos Quinonez (caution) 89.
USA – Clint Dempsey (caution) 91+
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
2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Schedule – CONCACAF Final Round
Team P W L D GF:GA GD PTS
Mexico 3 2 0 1 5:3 +2 7
United States 3 2 1 0 5:3 +2 6
Guatemala 3 1 1 1 5:3 +2 4
Costa Rica 3 1 1 1 3:3 0 4
Panama 3 0 1 2 2:3 -1 2
Trinidad & Tobago 3 0 2 1 2:7 -5 1
Date Match (home teams listed first) Location Kickoff/Result
Feb. 9 Panama vs. Guatemala Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City 0:0
Feb. 9 Costa Rica vs. Mexico Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; San Jose 1:2
Feb. 9 Trinidad & Tobago vs. USA Queen’s Park Oval; Port of Spain 1:2
March 26 Costa Rica vs. Panama Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; San Jose 2:1
March 26 Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago Estadio Mateo Flores Guatemala City 5:1
March 27 Mexico vs. USA Estadio Azteca; Mexico City 2:1
March 30 Panama vs. Mexico Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City 1:1
March 30 USA vs. Guatemala Legion Field; Birmingham, Ala. 2:0
March 30 Trinidad & Tobago vs. Costa Rica Hasely Crawford Stadium; Port of Spain 0:0
June 4 Trinidad & Tobago vs. Panama Hasely Crawford Stadium; Port of Spain 3:30 p.m. ET
June 4 Guatemala vs. Mexico Estadio Mateo Flores; Guatemala City 7 p.m. CT
June 4 USA vs. Costa Rica Rice-Eccles Stadium; Salt Lake City, Utah 5:30 p.m. MT
June 8 Panama vs. USA Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City 8 p.m. CT
June 8 Costa Rica vs. Guatemala Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; San Jose 8 p.m. CT
June 8 Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago Estadio Universitario; Monterrey 7 p.m. ET
Aug. 17 Guatemala vs. Panama Estadio Mateo Flores; Guatemala City 8 p.m. CT
Aug. 17 Mexico vs. Costa Rica Estadio Azteca; Mexico City 9 p.m. CT
Aug. 17 USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago TBD 8 p.m. ET
Sept. 3 Panama vs. Costa Rica Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City 8 p.m. ET
Sept. 3 Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guatemala Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain 3:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 3 USA vs. Mexico Columbus Crew Stadium; Columbus, Ohio 7:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 7 Mexico vs. Panama Estadio Azteca; Mexico 9 p.m. CT
Sept. 7 Guatemala vs. USA Estadio Mateo Flores; Guatemala City 8 p.m. CT
Sept. 7 Costa Rica vs. Trinidad & Tobago Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Panama City 8 p.m. CT
Oct. 8/9 Panama vs. Trinidad & Tobago TBD TBD
Oct. 8/9 Mexico vs. Guatemala TBD TBD
Oct. 8/9 Costa Rica vs. USA TBD TBD
Oct. 12 USA vs. Panama TBD TBD
Oct. 12 Guatemala vs. Costa Rica TBD TBD
Oct. 12 Trinidad & Tobago vs. Mexico TBD TBD
Nov. 12/13 AFC #5 vs. CONCACAF #4 TBD TBD
Nov. 16 AFC #5 vs. CONCACAF #4 TBD TBD
*updated through 6/3/05