Clint Dempsey Brace Paces USMNT to Win over Guatemala, Through to Next Round

Alan HainkelContributor IOctober 17, 2012

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 16:  Clint Dempsey #8 of the USA scores a goal during the first half of the World Cup Qualifying match against Guatemala at LiveStrong Sporting Park on October 16, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In what many were calling Kansas City's audition for big national team games, Clint Dempsey's first-half brace led the United States men's national team to a huge home win over Guatemala.

Midfielder Graham Zusi, playing in his home stadium, also put in a terrific performance, taking all the corner kicks and playing in some nice crosses before being subbed out for Maurice Edu in the 78th minute.

The Americans struggled in the first few minutes with some sloppy passing, and it cost them.

A sloppy pass in the midfield let Guatemala's Carlos Ruiz go on a breakaway. After dribbling into the penalty area, Ruiz got Tim Howard to commit early and went around him for the easy tap-in and an early 1-0 lead.

The goal seemed to flick a switch for the Americans, however, and they responded quickly.

A 10th-minute corner kick from Zusi led to the equalizer. Zusi found the head of Dempsey, who hit it toward the far post where it found Carlos Bocanegra, who simply redirected it into the back of the net.

Eight minutes later, Dempsey got himself on the score sheet again. Steve Cherundolo found Eddie Johnson with a long ball up the right wing. Johnson crossed it into the penalty area where Dempsey poked it into the net to give the Americans a 2-1 lead.

In the 29th minute, the US came close to extending its lead. Zusi played it across the 18-yard box from the right to Johnson on the left. Johnson's header went across the face of goal, but goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez got hands on it and Guatemala cleared the danger.

Nine minutes before the break, the US scored to strengthen its stranglehold on the game. Zusi received the ball on the right sideline and made a short pass to Michael Bradley. Bradley then did a give-and-go with Dempsey and put a slow roller in towards goal. Dempsey had continued his run and was on the back post for the tap-in and a 3-1 lead for the US.

The US came out for the second half looking to further lock down the result. In the 54th minute, Zusi played the ball forward to Herculez Gomez on the right wing. Gomez took the ball down close to the corner before crossing it to Johnson, but Johnson whiffed on the shot.

Two minutes later, Gomez made another good run down the right side and played the ball across the face of goal. Dempsey was crashing the back post but just missed the header that would have given him his first hat trick for the national team.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard came up with a big save in the 66th minute to keep the margin at two. Near the top of the 18-yard box, Marco Pappa kicked it out wide to Jose Contreras.

Howard initially saved Contreras' shot, but spilled the ball. Had he not reacted quickly and kicked the ball away while laying on his side, Minor Lopez would have put it in the net for Guatemala.

With the victory, the US finishes on top of Group A in the semifinal round of qualifying and will join Jamaica in the next round. Guatemala's quest for the 2014 World Cup has come to an end.