GUATEMALA CITY -- The US national team's upcoming World Cup qualifying foes are back on track.
Guatemala, who host the USMNT on June 12, faced Costa Rica for the second time in a week and picked up a 1-0 exhibition win on Friday night at the Estadio Mateo Flores after Costa Rica had won at home, 3-2, in a friendly the previous Friday.
Chicago Fire star Marco Pappa played his usual active role in attack for the hosts, while Portland Timbers left back Rodney Wallace and New York Red Bulls defender Roy Miller saw action for the Ticos.
Guatemala got forward confidently early on, with Pappa slamming a shot wide from 25 yards in the 20th minute, before a set piece found the head of ex-MLSer Carlos Ruiz in the 26th minute for the match’s only tally.
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“We wanted to go out and look for the result, and we got it,” Pappa said. “Now there’s something more important coming up for us, which are the qualifiers.”
The goal was Ruiz’s 49th for his country, and sent Guatemala on to a morale-boosting victory which has confidence at a high ebb in camp headed into their World Cup qualifying opener against Jamaica on June 8.
“We talk about being as positive as possible on the field,” Pappa said. “Costa Rica is a good team, and so it’s clear we’re getting ready for the qualifiers. Guatemala is improved and that’s clear, we’re ready for the 8th against Jamaica.”
The Costa Ricans, who host El Salvador in their WCQ opener, were considerably less pleased with the result. The Ticos never quite found their rhythm on a narrow, rain soaked pitch, and saw a frustrated manager Jorge Luis Pinto sent off late in the match.
“Better for this to happen now, and commit the errors we committed now, for today, then Friday when it counts,” said Red Bulls defender Miller. “But for today we’re not satisfied. We have the rest of the week to improve and correct the errors we made today.”
Playing in a central role, Miller was largely at fault on the Guatemalan goal, an offside trap gone awry. When Guatemalan midfielder Alejandro Galindo put in a well weighted set piece from the wing, Miller ran into the box along with several attackers while his teammates abandoned the area, leaving Ruiz free to power home his header.
“Lack of concentration, maybe,” Miller said. “I kept the guy on, and I take full responsibility. It’s a general lack of concentration, maybe, that needs to be corrected in the coming week.”
MLSers Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake) and Porfirio Lopez (Philadelphia Union) were unused subs for Costa Rica, while Portland’s Wallace was a late-game sub on the left wing.
“It was a hard game, difficult, the result didn’t go our way, but we’ve got a week to our next game on Friday, which is the qualifier,” Wallace said. “We’re not worried, this is the time we come together and fix the little things we need to fix. This is the type of game that could help us.”