A game many projected to lack action proved plenty lively for U.S. men’s national team captain Carlos Bocanegra. Maybe a little too lively, even.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Bocanegra found himself at the center of play for each of the first two goals — one per side — in the U.S. national team’s 3-1 victory over Guatemala on Tuesday at Livestrong Sporting Park. The Americans won their semifinal CONCACAF group and advanced to the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying.
A mere 10 minutes into the game, Bocanegra had already experienced the full wave of the game’s early emotional ride. By the night’s end, he had a new American record.
Guatemala’s counterattack staked the visitors to an early lead in the fifth minute. José Manuel Contreras lofted a long pass over Bocanegra’s head, and Carlos Ruiz beat Tim Howard on a second try, giving Guatemala a 1-0 lead.
“I obviously was not happy with it,” U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann said of the goal. “It was unnecessary, to be honest.”
Neither was Bocanegra, who said the U.S. defense was caught out of position on the play while trying to defend Guatemala’s top goal scorer, Ruiz, who netted his fifth goal in six qualifying matches.
Klinsmann said the team trained for the very play that led to the Ruiz goal.
“It was a little bit frustrating because it was too easy of a goal to give away,” Bocanegra said. “We were a little bit spread out on that one, and one pass beat us. But it was early in the game, so I don’t think anybody really put their heads down.”
Certainly not Bocanegra, who needed only five minutes to provide the equalizer. Graham Zusi’s corner kick in the 10th minute found Clint Dempsey, who headed the ball across the goalie box, leaving an easy tap in for Bocanegra.
“It was an important goal for the team to get us back on track,” Bocanegra said. “Luckily enough, it bounced to me, and I was able to finish it off.”
The goal was the 14th in his career with the national team, the most all-time by a U.S. defender. He entered the game tied with Marcelo Balboa.
“I didn’t think too much about that, but yeah, it’s a nice honor,” Bocanegra said. “It was better for us to get the win. That was the most important thing to me.”
Bocanegra earned his 108th career cap Tuesday night. He is one of only 12 players to reach 100.