The US Men's National Team defeated Guatemala last night, 3-1, to win its semifinal round qualifying group and move on to the final round of qualifying, known in this region as the "Hex." The loss knocked Guatemala out of World Cup Qualifying.
The US played its most complete match of the semifinal round at its most critical stage. If you missed the match, watch highlights by clicking here. Despite giving up an early goal and having some issues in the backline, the US dominated possession and took advantage of some great play from Clint Dempsey (2 goals and an assist). Also earning high marks were Herculez Gomez (great effort throughout, and his work earning a corner kick was critical to an early goal), Michael Bradley (dominated the midfield and contributed an assist on one of Dempsey's goals) and Eddie Johnson (assisted on Dempsey's first goal and played well before tiring late).
And now, it is on to the Hex. Here is a lowdown on the format:
Six CONCACAF teams make up the Hex (hence the name): Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, United States. The top three finishers in the round-robin format (one home, one away against each of the teams) qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The fourth place finisher will play a two-match playoff against the winner from the Oceania region (New Zealand is considered the favorite), with the winner advancing to the World Cup. The teams finishing fifth and sixth in the Hex are out.
Hex matches will begin in March. Until then, the US will play some friendly matches, including one next month against Russia. For now, let's enjoy a deep breath and look forward to the announcement of match dates and locations in the coming days.