The United States beat Guatemala handily in Kansas City to progress to the last round of World Cup qualifying.
"It's definitely a good way to end that first round and advance and make it clear that we were the No. 1 team in that group," Jurgen Klinsmann said.
Jamaica beat Antigua and Barbuda 4-1 in the group's other game to join the United States in the Hexagonal.
In Kansas City, the blustery winds before the match died down by kickoff, only to be replaced by the bluster of American fan noise from the sellout crowd of nearly 17,000. The American Outlaws in particular, sitting under banners reading “Fight like hell” and “Home of the brave,” provided boisterous support that rebounded off the half-roof of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park to amplify the volume.
The stadium fell silent, however, five minutes into the match. Carlos Bocanegra and Geoff Cameron sat too far apart and too high. Jose Contreras lifted the ball into the yawning green between them, and Carlos Ruiz lumbered in on goal alone. The Guatemalan captain skipped around Tim Howard and tucked it away.
Ruiz hurt his hand on the advertising boards celebrating, but the damage was done to the United States.
"We didn't need to take that first goal. That was not necessary," Klinsmann said. "The good thing was they responded right away and turned it around immediately. That calmed things down."
Jurgen Klinsmann's side responded swiftly, with Bocanegra redeeming himself. Clint Dempsey headed down a Graham Zusi corner, and the U.S. captain tipped it over the line from close range.
The goal, Bocanegra's 14th for the United States, marked a U.S. record for defenders, edging the Racing Santander defender ahead of Marcelo Balboa.
Eight minutes on and the Americans took the lead. Steve Cherundolo pushed a precise ball through the high Guatemalan backline where Eddie Johnson, who had recently switched flanks with Zusi, latched onto it and laid a low cross in front of goal. Clint Dempsey slid in to awkwardly bundle the ball across the line.
Ten minutes before halftime, Deuce hit his double. Michael Bradley let Zusi's ball in from the wing slip under his foot. Herculez Gomez immediately played the ball ahead to Bradley, who dinked the ball around the onrushing goalkeeper. Dempsey tapped it in on the line.
"Michael did another good job of chipping the keeper," Dempsey said. "I was in a situation where I didn't know if it was going to roll in or not. I decided to take it because I didn't know if it was going to hit the post or not."
Dempsey now has 30 international goals, joint third with Brian McBride on the all-time U.S. scoring charts.
"It's one of those where once one falls maybe a second, maybe a third will fall as well," Steve Cherundolo said. "So it was fortunate we got three in the first half."
At halftime Guatemala coach Ever Hugo Almeida chucked Minor Lopez and Marco Pappa into the match. After a flurry of aggressive attacking play from the rejuvenated Guatemalans, the United States started finding traction on the counterattack.
Eddie Johnson whiffed on an open cross and shortly thereafter shoved a rebound shot straight at the goalkeeper. The Americans continued to create the better chances, including a substantial penalty shout when Ruiz scythed down Bradley, though Contreras' stinging shot did force a kick-save out of Howard.
The result leaves the USA top of Group A with 13 points. Jamaica, tied with Guatemala on 10 points, progresses, along with the Yanks, to the Hexagonal thanks to goal differential.
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