GUATEMALA CITY – Tuesday’s 1-1 draw was far from an ideal outcome in Guatemala City for the US, which led a scrappy host side for 83 minutes before finally breaking. But overall, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the Americans said they were pleased with the effort at Estadio Mateo Flores in the second of six semifinal World Cup qualifying matches.
The Americans dominated possession early and took the lead on their first clear chance late in the first half, as Clint Dempsey deposited a Fabian Johnson feed into the Guatemalan net. Plans of taking three points home with them were foiled late, though, by a brilliant Marco Pappa free kick.
“We’re OK with the one point that we take away,” Klinsmann said. “We’re one of the top two teams and it’s a competitive group. Looking at the balance of play, the balance of the chances, it was a fair result.”
The US spent much of the second half probing forward against a Guatemalan side that had been brought out of its defensive shell. They nearly doubled the lead on several occasions, but were unable to convert and paid the price late when Pappa stepped up to a 20-yard set piece and glided an inch-perfect shot home.
WATCH: Dempsey gives US the lead, Pappa free kick equalizes
“We brought in Jozy Altidore actually trying to go even more forward, Klinsmann said. “Jozy got a pretty serious hit [on the ankle] there which made it tough for us. And then they got their goal through the free kick.”
“That’s the way it goes,” said Clint Dempsey, the US goalscorer. “We’re happy with the point still, we’ve got four points. You have to take the positives from it. We put ourselves in a good situation.”
The American coach gave the credit for the split points to the hosts, who made three aggressive switches at halftime and were a changed squad in the second stanza.
“They never gave up, they launched I don’t know how many long balls and ran for second balls, and that’s their game plan and we knew that,” said Klinsmann. “But overall, I’m pleased with the way we controlled the game. We came here for three points and it was clear that we didn’t come here for a point.”
Though it might not have been the most satisfying result, the tie leaves the US atop the group, ahead of Jamaica on goal differential. The Jamaicans were surprised Tuesday by Antigua and Barbuda, who held the Reggae Boyz to a scoreless draw at home. Guatemala’s vital point keeps them alive going into a home-and-home in September with the Antiguans.
“Guatemala needed a point and had to push more and more, which they tried to do, and we were trying to push more and more to get the second goal,” Klinsmann said. “Overall, it was a good game from our end. I would have loved three points, but we’ll take it the way it is.”