GUATEMALA CITY – Marco Pappa stole what looked like a sure three points for the US with a brilliantly taken free kick in the 82nd minute, giving Guatemala a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night in their World Cup qualifier at Estadio Mateo Flores.
The Americans rode a 40th-minute goal from Clint Dempsey deep into the match and squandered a number of scoring opportunities in the second half. It cost them.
In the 81st minute, Fabian Johnson – who returned to the US lineup at left back – took down Ruiz just outside the top of the box, giving the hosts a free kick from 25 yards. Second-half sub Pappa made no mistake, drilling the ball into the upper 90 and giving Tim Howard no chance.
The Americans had done a good job breaking down a defensive Guatemala lineup. Ever Almeida chose to leave sparkplug Pappa on the bench and opted instead for an extra target man alongside Ruiz up top.
US manager Jurgen Klinsmann stuck with a 4-5-1 formation, with a three-man central midfield of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley playing on top of the deep-lying Maurice Edu.
The US kept about two-thirds of the possession in the first half as the Guatemalans were content to play their counterattacking game and looked for half-chances playing off Ruiz.
Five minutes before halftime, the US’ patience paid off. Johnson picked up a loose ball at midfield and made a purposeful run to the top of the 18-yard box, where he fed Dempsey. The Fulham man did the rest, dancing around a defender and finding the back of the net to quiet the home crowd.
Almeida made adjustments at halftime, bringing on Pappa and forward Dwight Pezzarossi. And it was the Chicago attacker in particular who lit a fire under the hosts.
After several lively forays forward, Pappa sprayed a shot just wide of Howard’s goal off a deflection in the 67th minute.
On the ensuing corner, the ball was headed back in to defender Luis Rodríguez, whose shot was stuffed by Howard. The rebound fell to Ruiz with the goal at his mercy, but the former MLS man skied his shot over badly, much to the relief of the Americans.
After the US calmed things down, they thought they had put a second in the net in the 78th minute, as a sprawling Demspey played in substitute Jozy Altidore, but the Salvadoran referee preferred to call a foul than give advantage, and Jones wasted the ensuing free kick.
They came to rue the missed opportunity when Pappa found the equalizer four minutes later, sending the crowd into hysterics.
After two games of World Cup qualifying, the US remain atop Group A on goal differential – their four points through two games is identical to Jamaica's, but the Americans are at plus-two while the Reggae Boyz are at plus-one.
The US resume qualifying on Sept. 7 in Kingston in a top-of-the-group showdown.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Marco Pappa||Did more to change the game in 45 minutes than many players did in 90. A livewire throughout the second half and a wicked free kick to earn Guatemala a poitn.|
|2||Clint Dempsey||A clever move to free himself at the top of the area and score was the highlight of an active night. Unlucky not to assist a goal for Altidore when the ref called play back.|
|3||Fabian Johnson||Some questions remain about his defending, but there's no denying the extra element he adds to the US attack overlapping down the left flank. Involved in some of the more dangerous moves.|