"Congratulations Elaine on a job ... done." -- J. Peterman, Seinfeld
Crisis averted. The U.S. National Team will advance to the final round of CONCACAF 2014 World Cup qualification.
That was fun.
Realistically, there's not a ton to say following the U.S.'s 3-1 win over Guatemala in Kansas City. It was a fairly straightforward stuff and an overall solid American performance all things considered. I'll probably draw the same conclusions as the roughly 4,301 other U.S. soccer blogs floating around cyberspace, anyways.
Full disclosure: I want to watch the Tigers/Yankees ALCS Game 3, plus, there's less to analyze after a win compared to a loss.
Look, allowing a goal to Carlos Ruiz -- burn him at the stake!!! -- inside of five minutes is poor. Throughout this round in all six matches the U.S. defense, when the opposition had space to operate and put them on their back heel, was beyond shaky. Is Carlos Bocanegra a viable starting center back option in two years? A debate for another time, albeit a very very relevant debate.
Aside from that slip up and some consistently dodgy (and expected) CONCACAF officiating, there's not much to dislike or worry about from this performance.
Down a goal the U.S. asserted itself, never lost its cool and quickly made it 1-1 on a goal from theCarlos Bocanegra set up by Herculez Gomez winning a sneaky corner. (Another U.S. trademark: goals from a defender on a set piece.)
Clint Dempsey scored two typical Clint Dempsey goals to settle it.
If there's a big takeaway, it's how much better the U.S. looked with Michael Bradley bossing the game around -- easier to do against Guatemala than others, yet still impressive. As stated here and elsewhere, Bradley is the bald rock the U.S. needs to build around. A true, two-way stud midfielder, who probably won a penalty against the nefarious Ruiz late, but for the incompetence of the CONCACAF region's officiating.
Danny Williams certainly stated his case to play ahead of everybody's favorite American international, Jermaine Jones in the center of the midfield. Graham Zusi was effective in a wide position. Eddie Johnson continued his stunning renaissance and, by golly, it was a fun night for everybody in a red-and-white shirt.
Double that fact since the U.S.'s win, coupled with Jamaica's win against Antigua and Barbuda, knocked out Guatemala. Nothing against Guatemala, but if I never see the U.S. play against them, I could die a semi-happy person.
All-in-all, the horrid performances throughout this round probably aren't going to be remembered, despite their alarming causes for concerns. Ultimately, the U.S. avoided the massive catastrophe of failing to make the final round. In the final round the U.S., so long as it doesn't drop points at home, should be in good shape to play in its seventh straight World Cup.
Does anyone remember this round of qualifying four years ago? Eight years ago?
The U.S. took care of business, though it didn't make it easy. Jurgen Klinsmann can now be afforded a little time to take a deep breath, reassess things before the next round starts in February and make sure a ticket to Brazil is punched.
That means we can all turn our attention into wondering if and when Landon Donovan factors into Klinsmann's team.