GUATEMALA CITY - Carlos Bocanegra scored on a header in the 69th minute, and the United States escaped from Guatemala with a chippy 1-0 victory Wednesday night in the Americans' opener in the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying.
Guatemala's Jose Contreras, left, fights for the ball with U.S. Pablo Mastroeni during a World Cup 2010 qualifying soccer game in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008.
(AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Unmarked about 3 yards from the goal, the U.S. captain headed in DaMarcus Beasley's corner kick for his 10th goal in 59 international appearances.
Beasley had entered the match three minutes earlier when a bleeding Eddie Lewis came off on a stretcher after his head collided with a forearm from Guatemala's Jose Manuel Contreras when both leaped for the ball.
"For us, it was a hard-fought three points. The referee did a very solid job trying to deal with a very hard-fought game," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "It was pure determination of the team which is necessary to win games like this one."
Bocanegra played a solid all-around game, disrupting Carlos Ruiz and Carlos Manuel Contreras from getting the crossing passes that could have led to dangerous chances.
The Americans, favored to make their sixth straight World Cup appearance, had tied all four of their previous qualifiers at Guatemala, where they had been 1-4-4 overall — their only win in a 1988 exhibition. They are 4-0 against Guatemala in qualifiers at home.
The U.S. team played a man short after defender Steve Cherundolo was ejected in the 60th minute for tripping up Freddy Garcia and receiving his second yellow card. Cherundolo will miss the Sept. 6 qualifier at Cuba.
American goalkeeper Tim Howard, and midfielders Pablo Mastroeni and Clint Dempsey also were given yellow cards, meaning they would be suspended if they get another yellow card in qualifying.
Howard made seven saves on a busy night, with 100th-ranked Guatemala outshooting the 31st-ranked Americans 16-9 before a capacity crowd of about 25,000 at Estadio Mateo Flores.
Road victories are key in qualifying, and Trinidad and Tobago won 3-1 at Cuba, giving the United States and the Soca Warriors a big advantage in the four-team group. The top two teams advance to next year's regional finals in the North and Central American and Caribbean region.
Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu played for the United States after returning from Beijing, where they were on the American team that was eliminated in the first round of the Olympics, which is mostly limited to players under 23.