The USMNT played on the road for the first time in the qualifying season for World Cup 2014 tonight, drawing 1-1 with Guatemala. The match featured a first-half goal from Clint Dempsey for the US, a second-half goal for the stars and stripes nullified by a poorly timed whistle, a late goal for the hosts off a very well-taken free kick, and some stellar saves from Tim Howard to preserve the draw for the Americans.
Here are my three positives from tonight's match:
1. Clint Dempsey continues to lead the offense with stellar play
On a night where Herculez Gomez was unimpressive and Jozy Altidore's limited minutes will be remembered by a missed opportunity off a great feed from Michael Bradley, Dempsey's effort was a big key to earning a point tonight. Not only did he score his goal off a brilliant sidestep move, but he created two other golden chances by drawing fouls just outside the box. The "most dangerous player" torch has officially been passed from Landon Donovan to Dempsey and Deuce isn't likely to let it go anytime soon.
2. Tim Howard saved the day
There is no more stable position in world soccer right now than that of the netminder for the USMNT. Howard has been a rock for years now, so his efforts are sometimes underappreciated. For those of you who were unable to watch tonight's match, I cannot stress to you enough how important Mr. Reliable was to gaining the point. He made some spectacular saves and cannot be blamed for the Guatemalan goal because the free kick went right over the wall and didn't seem enter Howard's line of sight until it was too late to stop it from hitting the back of the net.
3. The US sits atop Group A at four points
Through two qualifying matches, the US and Jamaica both have four points, but the US leads the group based on goal differential. Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda each now have one point. The next round of qualifying begins in September, when Jamaica hosts the US and then plays the return match in Columbus, while Guatemala hosts A&B and then plays there. As a reminder, the top two teams in this group will advance to the final round of World Cup 2014 qualifying. The US and Jamaica were considered the top two teams in this group coming into this semifinal round of qualifying, so these upcoming matches should be very entertaining.