The United States men's national team had not lost to the Guatemala national team since 1988. Let's take a look at some of the things that have changed since then: Ronald Reagan is no longer president—in fact, he has since passed away—we have seen seven Olympic games, seven World Cups and 28 Super Bowls, and Guatemala's bloody civil war ended, with peace ensuing after years of conflict.
But most important in this context is the USMNT. They went through six managers and are currently on their seventh, improving exponentially as soccer in this country grew. Helped by their hosting of the World Cup in 1994 and the foundation of Major League Soccer just a year later, the US have been to every World Cup since 1990 and have dominated the Gold Cup along with Mexico since the turn of the century.
Many American players have found success in the top European leagues—Tim Howard, Kasey Keller, DeAndre Yedlin, Jermaine Jones—as well as in MLS and across North America—like DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones.
So at this point, we should be expecting to easily beat the lower-level CONCACAF teams like Guatemala, Jamaica and Panama, and that was a reality a few years ago. But recently, under Jurgen Klinsmann, the national team has steadily declined to the point where we're concerned about not getting to the next round of World Cup qualifying.
Klinsmann, who accomplished so much as a player and managed the German national team at the 2006 World Cup, has driven the program backwards over the years. The youth development hasn't been at the quality we should be expecting—the U-23 side failed to qualify for the Olympics in 2012 and are in danger of doing so this year—and the senior team laid a huge egg at the Gold Cup, losing to Jamaica at home for the first time in history.
Klinsmann's constant tinkering with the starting XI and disturbing propensity to play the nation's top players out of position has hurt the USMNT to the point where it is a real concern that, with one more bad result, the Yanks might not even get to the Hex of World Cup qualifying. Unlikely, sure, but more dropped points against Guatemala on Tuesday would generate worry.
Here's a list of mistakes Klinsmann made in Guatemala City:
- He played without a true defensive midfielder.
- He used a flat 4-4-2 formation, going without a midfield playmaker.
- He played Yedlin, Michael Orozco, Geoff Cameron and Gyasi Zardes out of position.
- He actually started Orozco:
- He subbed off both center-backs and played what was effectively a 1-6-3 formation late in the game in pursuit of a comeback. It didn't work.
Michael Orozco starts for #USMNT tonight. He hasn't appeared for Tijuana this Liga MX season, though he has played in six Copa MX games.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) March 26, 2016