On Tuesday night, the rest of the United States team played just like him.
Dempsey had a pair of goals and assisted on Carlos Bocanegra’s equalizer, and the U.S. finally showed some of the gritty, proactive style Klinsmann has been preaching to rally past Guatemala 3-1 and reach next year’s final round of World Cup qualifying.
“They understood the moment,” said Klinsmann, who has eschewed the defensive style embraced by former U.S. coach Bob Bradley for one predicated on always moving forward.
“We expected a very difficult qualifying campaign, and that’s what this is,” Klinsmann said. “We made clear we’re the number one team in this group and the next round will be harder.”
Facing their first elimination game in qualifying since 2000 and only the second in 23 years, the Americans needed merely a draw to advance to the six-team finals in North and Central America and the Caribbean. The final round also will include Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama and Jamaica.
After Carlos Ruiz put Guatemala ahead in the fifth minute, Dempsey set up Bocanegra’s goal in the 10th minute, then scored in the 18th and 36th to help the U.S. (4-1-1) — seeking its seventh straight World Cup appearance — top its semifinal group with 13 points.
“We’re excited to get to the next round,” said Dempsey, whose 30 international goals are tied with Brian McBride for third-most in American history. “But we know we need to step up our game.”
Guatemala, which has never appeared in a World Cup, needed only a tie to advance, but was eliminated when Dane Richards scored two goals late in the second half in Jamaica’s 4-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda. Guatemala and Jamaica were both 3-2-1 for 10 points apiece, but the Reggae Boyz overtook Guatemala on goal difference, plus-3 to plus-1.
Guatemala coach Ever Hugo Almeida declined to attend a postgame news conference.
“This was my last game,” the 33-year-old Ruiz said. “I want to thank all the team, my family, my fans in Guatemala for all their support. It hurts not to go to a World Cup as a player but I will try to be with my national team in any other ways.”
The U.S. dictated the pace from the opening minute, appearing far more aggressive than it did while struggling to a 2-1 victory over Antigua on a muddy cricket pitch last Friday.
Still, Los Chapines caused tension when they scored in the opening minutes.
Jose Contreras took possession in the midfield and sent a looping pass ahead to Ruiz, who managed to beat Bocanegra to the ball as Geoff Cameron was caught upfield. Ruiz rounded goalkeeper Tim Howard and side-footed the ball into the goal.
As if a harbinger, Ruiz appeared to hurt himself seconds after scoring.