Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Jurgen Klinsmann starts the most crucial stretch
in the infancy of his tenure as U.S. national team coach on Friday, when 2014
World Cup qualifying begins against Antigua and Barbuda.
Klinsmann took over the United States last year, and had the squad on a five-
match unbeaten run from November to late last month, then reality set in with
a 4-1 loss to Brazil.
The Americans then tied Canada in a friendly Sunday, 0-0, in their final match
before qualifying starts, but veteran U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard believed "it
won't look too much like (Canada)" against Antigua and Barbuda.
Although the top two teams from each of the three groups in the semifinal part
of CONCACAF qualifying advance to the final group stage, the Americans head to
Guatemala and Jamaica in their next two matches.
According to Howard, that makes the Antigua and Barbuda match in Tampa, Fla.,
the first of six straight qualifiers, a crucial match.
"We're at home so we need to win that game," Howard said. "We need to really
put a lot of pressure on them and make them feel like they're going to be in a
really difficult game."
The United States should ultimately emerge as the top team from Group A, while
Antigua and Barbuda is most likely to finish at the bottom.
But with Klinsmann's team still a work-in-progress, the Americans cannot take
anything for granted at this stage. A 5-1 win over Scotland in May proved just
how effective the United States can be, but Canada proved there are flaws.
The Americans and Antigua and Barbuda will meet for the first time. Guatemala
visits Jamaica in the other Group A match Friday.
Guyana visits Mexico and El Salvador visits Costa Rica in Group B, and Canada
visits Cuba and Panama visits Honduras in Group C in Friday's other CONCACAF
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