KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The primary objective for the United States against Guatemala was a win or at worst a draw, and squeaking through to the next round of World Cup qualifying.
It wasn't the only goal.
Jurgen Klinsmann revealed a much more ruthless motive in Tuesday night's 3-1 victory that allowed the U.S. to win Group A and advance to the six-team finals in North and Central America and the Caribbean: The second-year manager wanted to send a message to the rest of the world.
"With every game you try to earn respect. It's what you do," Klinsmann said. "Quite frankly, every qualifying game and every competition you try always to earn respect.
"You know in soccer that everybody is watching you," Klinsmann continued, his words picking up speed. "In South America, they're watching you. Russia will watch us, what we're doing here, so you always want to make statements. You want to send statements out and say, 'We're ready for you.' We want to go to Mexico and say, 'We want to beat you there.' Every game."
It hasn't always been pretty so far, but the pugnacious attitude of Klinsmann finally appears to have seeped into the psyche of a U.S. team drilled in defense by former coach Bob Bradley.
Even when Guatemala charged to a 1-0 lead in the opening minutes on a defensive breakdown by the American back line, it only seemed to stoke their passion. They answered a few minutes later when Graham Zusi's corner kick was redirected by Clint Dempsey and to the waiting foot of Carlos Bocanegra, who tapped it in for the equalizer.
The U.S. quickly increased the pressure from there.
Eddie Johnson corralled a pass on the wing and sent a low cross to Dempsey, who put the ball in the back of the net over the outstretched hand of the sliding Guatemalan goalkeeper. And later in the half, Michael Bradley's deft pass set up Dempsey for his second goal of the game.
The U.S., facing elimination for only the second time in the last five World Cup cycles, never let up in the second half. Dempsey just missed with a header that would have given him a hat trick, and a couple other shots were saved by Ricardo Jerez Jr. to keep the game reasonably close.
Not close enough for Guatemala, though. Jamaica's 4-1 victory of Antigua and Barbuda allowed it to squeeze into the final round on goal differential along with the Americans. They'll be joined by heavily favored Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama.