U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann is just guessing like the rest of us in terms of offensive inclination from Guatemala, although it certainly fits the Guatemalan MO to set up more defensively, doggedly determined to be tough to break down.
They’ll play direct balls into Carlos Ruiz and depend on his hold-up ability to bring others slowly, cautiously into the attack, and to draw fouls that put Marco Pappa into dangerous free kick shooting spots.
But the U.S. coach knows one thing for certain about how Tuesday’s night’s match will unfold. Said Klinsmann at his news conference Monday about Guatemala’s mindset:
“It could be a defensive one. It could be that maybe they come out a little more offensively. No matter what shape they play, they will be very physical. They will run and fight for every ball. It is the game of their lives, really.
“The way they played their [previous World Cup qualifier, last week] with Jamaica, the first 20 minutes they ran out after everything on the field, every ball. So we are prepared for that. We respect them, but I expect, and we expect from ourselves, that we take care of the game. That we control that game, go forward and score, sooner rather than later.”
It’s an important point, because this has been an issue for the team under Klinsmann. Earlier this year Klinsmann admonished his team for not being “nastier” in a 4-1 loss to Brazil. (It was a choice of words the U.S manager most likely regretted.)
Ruiz is one of the most physical, frustrating forwards a defender will ever face. He’s a master of initiating contact first, then hunting for the ball. So, that’s the place to start when dealing with a physical game ahead.