A third straight win put the handwringing and doomsday warnings to rest (at least, momentarily) and helped the U.S to finish atop their group in the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualification with a 3-1 win against Guatemala. It was the first time the U.S. won a match in this stage by more than one goal since the opener against Antigua and Barbuda and it finally gave them a performance to be proud of as they head into the final round of qualification.
Of course, this being the U.S., the performance was not without its flaws. Just five minutes into the game, another defensive lapse led to a Carlos Ruiz goal for Guatemala, but the U.S. response was uncharacteristically quick. Carlos Bocanegra made it 1-1 in the 10th minute off a corner kick and Clint Dempsey poked in the go-ahead goal while sliding sideways in the 17th minute. This pleased manager Jurgen Klinsmann to the point of uppercuts (end of the video below)...
From that point on, the U.S. maintained control and attacked the goal the way Klinsmann has been promising since he first took over. Dempsey scored again in the 36th minute and though that would be the final addition the scoresheet, the U.S. looked dangerous all the way up to the final whistle (with possible exception to the moment when Dempsey was booked for diving late in the game).
Multi-goal games have been troublingly rare under Klinsmann, but this one could provide a bit of momentum as they go into the final stage of qualification. It also shows that the giant Clint Dempsey head pictured above is likely the key to the team's success.
UPDATE: The teams joining the U.S. in the hexagonal stage are Jamaica, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama.