After back-to-back World Cup qualifying matches with Guatemala, the U.S. will have an extended break until their first Copa America Centenario match. The layoff will last until June 3, when the Yanks begin group play against Colombia, and the U.S. will enter the tournament with momentum.
Jurgen Klinsmann's squad earned a much-needed positive jolt in CONCACAF with a 4-0 victory over Guatemala on Tuesday. The schedule becomes decidedly softer with subsequent qualifying matches in September on the road against lowly Saint Vincent and the Grenadines followed by a home match against first-place Trinidad and Tobago. The U.S. own a 27-0-2 home record in qualifying since 2001.
Central midfielder Michael Bradley will miss the game against St. Vincent due to a second yellow card, but in the first meeting between the U.S. and the Caribbean nation, the Yanks cruised to a 6-1 victory. In four matches, St. Vincent have been outscored 16-0.
The U.S. own a one-point edge on Guatemala for second place, and have a six-goal advantage in goal difference. The two top teams in the three CONCACAF groups advance to the six-team group finals for a trip to Russia in 2018.
The months of inaction may help cool the temper of Klinsmann's vocal critics. There was growing speculation that any result short of a victory against Guatemala would have resulted in the German's dismissal.
Klinsmann's lineups and decisions have raised many eyebrows, and the results have been unsatisfactory for many supporters. Following a Round-of-16 exit from the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. were eliminated by Jamaica in the Gold Cup semifinal, 2-1. In four World Cup qualifying matches, the U.S. own just a 2-1-1 record.
But the comprehensive win over Guatemala, following a 2-0 defeat just four days earlier, was convincing enough that the criticism should, at least, temporarily subside. Had the U.S. escaped with a one-goal win, questions would have surrounded the U.S. team's chances of qualifying for an eighth-consecutive World Cup.
“A huge compliment to every one of them for a very clear message that we are on top of the game and we're in the driver's seat again,” Klinsmann said after the game. He would also praise the team's attitude and chemistry, as well as the boisterous Columbus crowd.
Klinsmann is not out of the woods yet. Home-soil matches against Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay in Copa America Centenario still await, and subpar results would likely cast doubts on his leadership. With a trip to the final six in CONCACAF still not secure, the U.S. team may need all the positive momentum they can get.
Copa America Centenario Schedule
June 3 USA vs. Colombia (Levi's Stadium - Santa Clara)
June 7 USA vs. Costa Rica (Soldier Field - Chicago)
June 11 USA vs. Paraguay (Lincoln Financial Field - Philadelphia)
World Cup Qualifying Schedule
Sept. 2 St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. USA (Arnos Vale Stadium - Kingstown, St. Vincent)
Sept. 9 USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago (In the U.S., but location to be determined)
CONCACAF Group C Standings
Trinidad and Tobago 3-1-0 (10 Points)
USA 2-1-1 (7 points)
Guatemala 2-0-2 (6 points)
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 0-0-4 (0 points)