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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Americans look to Columbus to rediscover winning way

United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann made some lineup changes in loss to Guatemala that some thought curious. (Julio Cortez / Associated Press)
Craig Merz Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Some home support and self-evaluation could go a long way toward the United States getting some measure of redemption after its numbing loss at Guatemala on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

The 2-0 loss was the first to Guatemala in 21 games since 1988 and the first qualifying loss in 13 matches against them.

The rematch is Tuesday night in Columbus, at Mapfre Stadium, known as Crew Stadium until 12 months ago.

By any name it’s been a fortress for U.S. soccer where the national team has a 7-0-3 record and outscored its opposition 15-1. The lone goal allowed was against Jamaica on Nov. 14, 2004.

Included among the shutouts are four qualifying matches against Mexico, all 2-0 scores for the famous “Dos a Cero” tag line.

“This is one of the few stadiums in the United States we have an all-pro American crowd. I remember my last time here against Mexico the atmosphere was amazing,” midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said of the Sept. 10, 2013, match. “To be able to know we have all the fans behind us gives us a mental edge, so to speak.”

The U.S. was lacking that and cohesive play Friday when a poor back pass by Edgar Castillo led to the first goal by Rafael Morales and the second in the 15th was from Carlos Ruiz as he got by the leaky defense.

“There’s no doubt we were stunned, for sure, to let in two goals in that manner in the first 15 minutes,” Bedoya said. “We put ourselves against the wall. We started the way we wanted to start and then we got a little sloppy. A bad back pass leads to a corner kick and I guess we weren’t ready for that.

“We talked about being aggressive on set pieces; 1-0 down then 2-0 down on a collective mistake from the team.”

Injuries to defenders John Brooks and Matt Besler and midfielder Fabian Johnson didn’t help and coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s lineup came into question, especially when he substituted midfielder Mix Diskerud at the half because of his poor performance.

There were other quizzical moves by Klinsmann, such as right back DeAndre Yedlin starting on the right wing and using Michael Orozco as the left center back.

U.S. captain Michael Bradley said the players have to be held accountable.

“The game finishes and you’re looking at the right balance, looking at the game, looking at ourselves, looking at things that need to be better,” he said Sunday before practice at Mapfre Stadium. “We’re pretty honest with ourselves. We understand we let ourselves done the other night.

“We have to be ready when the chance comes Tuesday night and step on the field and right from the first whistle play in a way that leaves no doubt as to the result at the end of the game.”

Trinidad and Tobago (2-1) leads Group C with seven points. Guatemala (2-0-1) is one point back. The U.S. (1-1-1) has four points and St. Vincent (0-3-0) is last.

There are three matches remaining for each team in the semifinal round with the top two teams advancing the six-nation regional finals.

Notes: On Sunday, Klinsmann added midfielders Graham Zusi from Sporting Kansas City and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund to the roster. Fabian Johnson has returned to Borussia Moenchengladbach for further treatment on a groin injury, and Matt Besler will traveled to Kansas City after sustaining a concussion in training Thursday. … Columbus Crew SC teammates midfielder Ethan Finlay of the U.S. and Guatemalan forward Rodrigo Saravia could play against each other in their club’s home venue. Saravia went 90 minutes Friday but Finlay did not play.