KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Clint Dempsey had a pair of goals and assisted on Carlos Bocanegra’s equalizer, and the United States rallied to beat Guatemala, 3-1, Tuesday night and reached next year’s final round of World Cup qualifying.
Facing their first elimination game in qualifying since 2000, the Americans needed merely a draw to advance to the six-team finals in North and Central America and the Caribbean. After Carlos Ruiz put Guatemala ahead in the fifth minute, Dempsey set up Bocanegra’s goal in the 10th minute, then scored in the 18th and 36th. With 30 international goals, Dempsey tied Brian McBride for third-most in American history.
The US (4-1-1), seeking its seventh straight World Cup appearance, topped its semifinal group with 13 points.
Guatemala, which has never appeared in a World Cup, was eliminated when Dane Richards scored two goals late in the second half in Jamaica’s 4-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda. Guatemala and Jamaica were both 3-2-1 for 10 points apiece, but the Reggae Boyz overtook Guatemala on goal difference, plus-3 to plus-1.
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said before the game that ‘‘you can only win a game if you attack and go forward, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to look for a tie.’’
That certainly held true.
The Americans were more the aggressive team their German coach has been trying to develop and less like the side that struggled over a muddy cricket pitch to a 2-1 victory over Antigua on Friday — an outcome that took most of the pressure off Tuesday night’s game.
Still, Los Chapines caused tension with a goal in the opening minutes.
Jose Contreras took possession in the midfield and sent a looping pass ahead to Ruiz, who managed to beat Bocanegra to the ball as Geoff Cameron was caught upfield. Bocanegra joined Cameron at center back while Michael Parkhurst took over on the left and Clarence Goodson was benched in the only American lineup changes from Friday.
Ruiz rounded goalkeeper Tim Howard and side-footed the ball into the goal. Ruiz appeared to hurt himself seconds after scoring.
He reached out to steady himself on the electronic signage near the field, and may have sliced his hand.
The tying goal came just a few minutes later.
Sporting KC midfielder Graham Zusi, playing in his home stadium, sent a corner kick arcing into the penalty area, and Dempsey got just enough of it to redirect to Bocanegra, who was left alone by Manuel Leon near the far post and easily found the back of the net.
It was Bocanegra’s 14th goal with the national team, moving him past Marcelo Balboa for the most among American defenders. It also generated a roar from a sellout crowd of 16,947 that would have been much larger if officials could have sold standing-room tickets.
Dempsey deftly scored over the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez for a 2-1 lead, while Eddie Johnson picked up an assist to go with the two goals he scored against Antigua.
Also advancing to the six-team finals from the CONCACAF region were Mexico, Jamaica, Honduras, Panama, and Costa Rica.