The United States started their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign with a scrappy 3-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda.
When Carlos Bocanegra bundled home a rebound from a corner seven minutes in at Raymond James Stadium in Florida, it looked like clear sailing for the USA against a team made up of players largely from the USL Pro League.
The USA struggled throughout the first half to find a way to open Antigua and Barbuda’s defence, which looked comfortable playing deep and inviting constant pressure.
Fulham striker Clint Dempsey finally banged home a penalty just before half-time to make it 2-0.
Dempsey had played Landon Donovan into the box where he was knocked down with a slide tackle, and the hosts took a comfortable lead into the break.
The second half would however provide a shock for the Americans, as the minnows managed to pull a goal back.
A defensive mistake from Oguchi Onyewu allowed Peter Byers to slip in behind and in on Everton custodian Tim Howard’s goal.
Antigua and Barbuda’s leading scorer made no mistake with the finish in the 64th minute, forcing USA to ground out the win.
Herculez Gomez put the match to bed in the 71st minute, finishing into an empty net on his third attempt and restoring USA’s two-goal advantage.
The visitors pushed for another goal in the late stages of the match, but the USA played out a fairly comfortable finish to earn their first three points of qualifying.
The USA top Group A from Jamaica, who were 2-1 winners over Guatemala at Independence Park, Kingston.
The Jamaicans were on target through Demar Phillips and Ryan Johnson, before Dwight Pezzarossi netted a consolation goal in the second minute of injury time for the Guatemalans.
Mexico were comfortable 3-1 winners in their Group B clash with Guyana at Estadio Guillermo Canedo.
Carlos Salcido and Giovanni dos Santos both scored in the opening 15 minutes, before an own goal from Guyana defender JP Rodrigues made it a three-goal buffer for the Mexicans early in the second half.
However, Mexico defender Hector Moreno repaid the favour with an own goal 11 minutes later, but it proved mere consolation.
Mexico sit top of Group B on three points, after the group’s other game between Costa Rica and El Salvador finished 2-2.
The hosts at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica led 2-0 through 16 minutes, but El Salvador – ranked 10 spots above their opponents in the FIFA standings – fought back with goals to Jose Gutierrez and Osael Romero.
In Group C, Canada and Panama are level on three points after racking up respective away wins.
The North Americans accounted for Cuba 1-0, while Panama overcame Honduras 2-0 to top the group on goal difference.
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