Klinsmann rewarded for his patience 

October, 16, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The U.S. was lively from the start, as expected. The sellout crowd at LiveStrong Sporting Park was in full voice, as expected. What wasn't expected, though, was Guatemala breaching the U.S. back line just four minutes in and taking a 1-0 lead.

Fortunately, the Yanks restored order almost immediately via a Carlos Bocanegra header before two goals from Clint Dempsey made it 3-1 before halftime, a score line that would stand up for the hosts. The win not only punched the Americans' ticket to next year's final round of regional qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, it sent them through atop their four-team group. Years from now, that's what the record will show. Fans will forget how the U.S. missing out on the world's biggest sporting event seemed like a distinct possibility when Carlos Ruiz put La Bicolor ahead early.

Or that it was Dempsey and Michael Bradley who wouldn't let that happen. When their team needed them the most, the Americans' two most-decorated field players stepped up and willed the U.S. to victory.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.