October 15, 2012
By Michael Lewis
GOING FOR THREE POINTS
Klinsmann: 'We want to win the game'
KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- Even though the United States need but a draw to reach the next round of World Cup qualifying, the Americans certainly are not planning to take it easy when they meet Guatemala in the final semifinal-round match on Tuesday night.
|Tim Howard: "If we can take care of business, that's the most important thing. We have to guard against complacency because at the moment, knowing that we're in the drivers' seat, but that can change."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Entering the match at Livestrong Sporting Park, the U.S. and Guatemala are tied for the CONCACAF Group A lead with 3-1-1 records and 10 points. In fact, both teams can clinch a spot in next year's hexagonal even if they lose -- if Jamaica (2-2-1, seven) falls at The Office in Kingston to Antigua & Barbuda (0-4-1, one). The latter result is unlikely, but the U.S. is not leaving anything to chance.
“We want to win this game," U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann said during a press conference on Monday. "You can only win a game if you attack and go forward, and that is what we are going to do. We are not looking for a tie.”
That seems to be the mentality throughout the team for the match (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET).
"We're all professionals," right fullback Steve Cherundolo said on Sunday. "This is not our first game, so I think we have the mentality whatever a professional has. Not only that, this is a good, group of competitive guys. Any time they step onto the field, they want to win the game, regardless."
Goalkeeper Tim Howard agreed and elaborated.
"I think a lot of us understand that if we go full throttle and we don't get the win, we may still advance," he said. "Obviously, we don't want to take that risk because crazier things have happened. As much as Antigua doesn't have a lot to play for, you never know what can happen. If we can take care of business, that's the most important thing. We have to guard against complacency because at the moment, knowing that we're in the drivers' seat, but that can change."
You don't have to remind the American players that they will be in for a battle against Guatemala, which used a free kick by former Chicago Fire standout midfielder Marco Pappa to produce a 1-1 tie in Guatemala City in June.
"They have quality there," midfielder-forward Clint Dempsey said. "They're a good team. They've done well during this qualifying round and they're going to be a tough team to play against. We're going to look at the tapes and see what we need to do to be more effective and try to limit their chances. Hopefully we can get the right result."
The Americans are virtually perfect against Guatemala, boasting 10-0-1 home record, including 5-0-0 in WCQ. The lone draw was a 0-0 tie in Frisco, Texas on March 28, 2007.
"Who knows what we are going to see?" Dempsey said. "We know it’s going to be a difficult game. Both teams want to qualify for the World Cup. In that situation, everybody is going to give it their all. I think it will be a tough game, but hopefully we can show our quality playing on a pitch like this and be able to take the game to them."
After recording a 2-1 win over a difficult Antigua side on a narrow cricket ground in the rain in North Sound, Antigua, the U.S. looked forward to playing on a full-sized pitch on Tuesday night. The weather forecast calls for no rain here.
"Everything is there for us to be able to step onto the field on Tuesday night and play a good game," central midfielder Michael Bradley said.
"The conditions here are as close to as they could come. It's a big time American crowd. Everything is in place. . . . Just because the stadium is a little nicer and just because the field is a little bigger and the grass is greener doesn't guarantee you that you will be able to play better. That part is up to us."