It's kind of ironic that Bob Bradley's first official U.S. match - the first match in a tournament, that is - will be against Guatemala.
Bruce Arena's first tournament match was against Guatemala. I think. I mean, can you count the U.S. Cup game against Guatemala on March 11, 1999 as an official tournament match? The tourney doesn't exist anymore, but it did mean something back in the day, no?
Anyway, here's how the U.S. lined up that day:
Zach Thornton; Jeff Agoos, Carlos Llamosa, CJ Brown, Eddie Lewis; Richie
Williams, Joe-Max Moore, Ben Olsen (Frankie Hejduk, 63), Jovan Kirovski; Ante Razov
(Chris Armas, 60), Brian McBride.
Of those guys, the following went on to be major players in the run-up to and at the 2002 World Cup: Agoos, Llamosa, Lewis, Moore, Hejduk, Armas, McBride.
The U.S. beat Guatemala 3-1 on goals by Joe-Max Moore, Brian McBride and Frankie Hejduk, all 2002 World Cup veterans.
Two days later, the U.S. lost to Mexico 2-1 in San Diego, the last loss by the Americans against Mexico in the U.S. until... well, they haven't lost to them here since.
Here's the team Arena trotted out against El Tri:
Tony Meola (Zach Thornton, 17); Jeff Agoos, David Regis, Robin Fraser, Eddie
Pope (Ben Olsen, 67); Eddie Lewis (Clint Mathis, 82), Chris Armas, Jovan Kirovski,
Frankie Hejduk; Cobi Jones, Brian McBride.
Of those who saw action this game but not the first, the following were key parts in the run-up to and at the 2002 World Cup: Meola, Regis, Pope, Mathis, Jones.
So how does this relate to 2007 and the Gold Cup opener? It doesn't. Okay, well, it does a little. There are some players who Bradley will play that will be key parts of the 2010 and the 2014 World Cups, whether he's there to reap the rewards or not (providing the U.S. qualifies of course), guys like Pope and McBride were to Arena.
There will also be players like Jovan Kirovski who had caught the attention of many fans only to turn out to be a colossal waste of a roster space. And then there are the players who just didn't pan out internationally, like Razov, Fraser and Brown.
Just something to think about when you consider the future of the USMNT as you watch the US play Guatemala.