Frisco, TX (Sports Network) – Bob Bradley’s unbeaten record remained in tact on Wednesday night at Pizza Hut Park, but it was not the result that the interim coach of the United States National Team was looking for, as his side was held to a 0-0 draw by Guatemala.
Bradley became the first coach in United States history to win his first three games, but a defensive-minded Guatemala side did not allow him to make it a fourth.
Bradley sent a young lineup out for the game, with defenders Jay DeMerit and Frank Simek making their international debut. The back line was anchored by Jimmy Conrad, but was rarely tested, as the visitors put one striker up top and let the other 10 players drop back to defend.
Guatemala came out clogging up the midfield and making it difficult for the Americans to generate any consistent attack. The first chance of the game was created by Justin Mapp of the United States. The midfielder took possession of the ball on the left wing and drove a low cross to the middle of the box for Eddie Johnson. He struck the ball first-time towards goal from eight-yards out, but the Guatemala defense was there to block the shot.
Both teams were content to play long balls over the top, but neither side had any success. In the 18th minute the United States was able to piece together a nice build up through the midfield that produced their best chance of the opening half.
Clint Dempsey controlled the ball on the right flank and played it Landon Donovan, who quickly threaded the ball to Johnson at the top of the box. Johnson turned with the ball and fired a hard shot towards goal, but the ball was right at keeper Ricardo Trigueno, and he turned it aside.
A 35th-minute free-kick then gave the United States another chance to crack the scoreboard as Donovan chipped the ball towards Dempsey at the far post. He dove to meet the ball with his head and put it on goal, but Trigueno was in good position to make the save.
The visitors did not threaten the Americans net until the 43rd minute when they too created a good chance from a dead-ball situation. Carlos Figueroa lobbed the ball into the box from the right wing and Carlos Ruiz somehow created enough room for himself to hit a volley towards goal. The ball drifted over the cross bar but it served as a sign that the defense could not relax.
Ruiz found another opening for himself after the restart as he carried the ball towards the net and saw keeper Kasey Keller drift a little off his line. He tried to lob a shot over Keller’s head but did not have enough on the shot, allowing Keller to recover and make an easy save.
Another nice spot of play from the United States in the 62nd minute gave Mapp a good look at the net, but his shot went inches wide. Dempsey took possession of the ball with his back to the goal at the top of the penalty area. He then flicked it wide to Mapp, who ripped a low shot towards the far post from the left that narrowly missed.
The United States spent the majority of the last 15 minutes inside the Guatemala half, but were unable to crack the visitor’s back line. The Americans could not take advantage of a number of corner-kick opportunities, and their last shot on goal came in the 86th minute when Donovan hit a half- volley from just inside the box on net, but failed to get much pace behind it.
In the end it was a positive result for Guatemala, who never really looked interested in leaving the States with a win. For the Americans, it was a chance to see some of their younger players facing international competition. Young midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Michael Bradley got a taste of the rugged play they will face in the international ranks, while Mapp played a solid game on the outside.
The biggest disappointment continues to be the Americans lack of a creative playmaker up top. Johnson turned in another lackluster performance, and it remains to be seen who will step forward as the go-to guy up top. With a defense that has played well and a midfield that is starting to round into form, the United States may be a good striker away from becoming a factor on the international scene.