The match will be vital for both teams as they look to advance to the Hexagonal Round of CONCACAF 2018 World Cup Qualifying.
CONCACAF 2018 World Cup Qualifying Group C Table as of 3/24/16:
|Position||Team||Played||Wins||Draws||Losses||Goals For||Goals Against||Goal Difference||Points|
|2.||Trinidad and Tobago||2||1||1||0||2||1||+1||4|
|4.||Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||2||0||0||1||1||10||-9||0|
Away matches in CONCACAF are notoriously difficult and while the U.S. is a superior team on paper, Guatemala should provide a tough test. Additionally with Estadio Mateo Flores almost a mile above sea-level, the U.S. players may struggle to deal with the altitude.
The roster for Guatemala consists mostly of domestic-based players, who likely won't be familiar to U.S. fans. However MLS fans will likely recognize Guatemala's two star players, Marco Pappa and Carlos Ruiz.
Pappa is in his seventh year in MLS and has been playing well for the Colorado Rapids, with one goal and one assist in the first three matches of the season. Pappa is a prototypical left midfielder who excels at crossing and has excellent passing range.
Thirty-six year old striker Carlos Ruiz spent nine years in MLS and is Los Chapines' all-time leading goal scorer. Ruiz has a reputation as a dirty player who is prone to diving. He is conveniently available for this match after the National Football Federation of Guatemala shortened his suspension for assaulting a referee. Ruiz may no longer be in top physical shape; however he is a dangerous poacher who will be one of Guatemala's top scoring threats.
Defenders (9): Ventura Alvarado (Club America/MEX), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey/MEX), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana/MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland/ENG)
Midfielders (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes FC/FRA), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers FC), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)
Goalkeepers (3): Paulo Motta (Municipal), Ricardo Jérez (Alianza Petrolera/COL), José García (Cobán Imperial)
Defenders (8): Cristian Jiménez (Municipal), Hamilton López (Xelajú), Luis Cardona (Municipal), Carlos Castrillo (Comunicaciones), Rafael Morales (Saprissa/CRC), Moises Hernández (FC Dallas/USA), Stefano Cincotta (Chemnitzer/GER), Jonathan López (Antigua GFC)
Midfielders (6): Rodrigo Saravia (Columbus Crew SC/USA), Marco Rivas (Municipal), Gerardo Arias (Petapa), Jean Márquez (Comunicaciones), Marco Pappa (Colorado Rapids/USA), José Contreras (Comunicaciones)
Forwards (6): Manfred Icuté (Petapa), Luis Martínez (Xelajú), Edi Guerra (Universidad San Carlos), Gerson Tinoco (Coatepeque), Carlos Ruiz (Municipal), Kevín Arriola (Xelajú)
The U.S. is expected to dominate possession, but Guatemala will be dangerous on the counter. With a boisterous home crowd, expect Guatemala to play for the win.
The USMNT will be very confident, despite heading into a hostile environment, as it is undefeated against Guatemala in the past twenty one matches. However, the U.S. is also 1-0-5 all time in away matches against Guatemala.
Expect Jurgen Klinsmann to deploy a veteran lineup in hopes of securing points in this road qualifier. There are several lineup questions surrounding the U.S., the biggest of which may be at goalkeeper.
There is a three-way battle for the starting job between Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and David Bingham. Howard has spent the past few months on the bench at Everton, while Guzan has been part of a disastrous season for Aston Villa that will likely result in relegation.
Bingham has been playing very well for the San Jose Earthquakes, but does not have the same international experience as Howard and Guzan. The 26 year old received his first cap and recorded his first shutout in the USMNT's most recent match on February 5th against Canada. Guzan seems the most likely to start, as he has more international experience than Bingham and is playing regularly, unlike Howard.
USMNT star Fabian Johnson is unlikely to feature in this match, as he recently suffered an injury playing for Borussia Mönchengladbach. Striker Jozy Altidore just returned from injury playing 13 minutes for Toronto FC last weekend. While Altidore is seemingly healthy, he may not be able to play 90 minutes against Guatemala.
If Jozy Altidore is not match fit, look for Bobby Wood to start. Wood has been in excellent form for 2. Bundesliga team Union Berlin, scoring seven goals in his last six matches.
With Johnson and Altidore questionable, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey will be key for the U.S. Bradley and Dempsey provide veteran leadership and experience needed in CONCACAF road qualifiers. Even more so than usual, Bradley will be called upon to create chances and Dempsey will be expected to finish.
CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying is never easy and the U.S. will need a stellar performance to win in Guatemala. I expect several dubious officiating decisions and a tough Guatemalan team to result in the U.S. drawing this match 1-1.