Marco Pappa scored a goal in the 83rd minute on a free kick from just outside the box to salvage a draw for Guatemala against the United States in tonight’s World Cup Qualifying match in Guatemala City. The draw gives Guatemala one point in Group A and puts them in a tie for third, while the US sits atop the group with four points, ahead of Jamaica (also with four) by virtue of goal differential.
The goal by Pappa was the last in a string of late chances for Guatemala as they desperately tried to close the one goal deficit in the final 20 minutes. Pappa had missed just moments earlier on a great chance when his shot deflected wide of a beaten Tim Howard. The ensuing corner kick was brilliantly stopped when Carlos Ruiz found himself alone in front of the net, but Howard was able to stick a hand out and bat it away.
The US’ lone goal came just before halftime when Clint Dempsey received a pass from left back Fabian Johnson, returning after missing two games with a strained calf muscle, and weaved his way through two defenders to clear himself for his 27th goal as a member of the US National Team. The goal looked like it would hold up until Pappa’s late equalizer.
The match was very choppy throughout thanks to the poor conditions of the pitch and the physical play of Guatemala. In the first half alone there were 19 fouls registered, shades of the 2008 qualifier between the two when the two sides were whistled for 40 fouls. No red cards were handed out, but three US players went in the book for yellow cards, including Johnson, who was booked for an elbow that led to the free kick goal for Pappa. Other US yellow cards were handed out to Clarence Goodson, Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley.
The US will get a much needed break after an exhausting stretch that saw them engaged in double training sessions on a daily basis and competing in five matches over the course of three weeks. The intense camp seemed to leave the US a little fatigued in the latter stages of recent matches and questions are sure to be leveled at manager Jurgen Klinsmann for the decision to work his group so hard.
The US will be off from qualifying until September 7th when they travel to Jamaica for the first of back to back matches with the Reggae Boyz in this semi-final group. The last time the two met was in the quarterfinal round of the Gold Cup in 2011. The Americans won that match 1-0 behind a Jozy Altidore goal. The US needs to finish in the top two of Group A to qualify for next years final CONCACAF qualifying round.