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U.S. settles for tie with Guatemala but sits in decent qualifying shape

WARSAW -- Three thoughts on the U.S.' 1-1 tie at Guatemala on Tuesday, which moved the U.S. into pole position in its semifinal-round World Cup qualifying group with four points, followed by Jamaica (four with less goal differential), Guatemala (one) and Antigua and Barbuda (one).

*Welcome to CONCACAF qualifying.* The U.S. had three points on its mind carrying a 1-0 lead into the final 15 minutes, but referee Joel Aguilar refused to play the clear advantage on a Guatemala foul, a decision that kept Jozy Altidore from being in alone on goal with a golden chance to put the game away. Instead, Guatemala went right down the field and won a free kick that Chicago Fire sniper Marco Pappa curled in for the equalizer. Give Pappa plenty of credit for his bender, and keep in mind that dicey calls are part and parcel of World Cup qualifying on the road in Central America. (The U.S. also could have done more to push for the second goal.) Although the U.S. will be disappointed with the tie, it still puts the Yanks in decent position heading into a home-and-home with Jamaica in September.

CREDITOR: U.S. player ratings

*Clint Dempsey is a pro in the box.* The U.S. star's goal was eerily similar to the one he scored to beat Italy in February. Taking advantage of a half-chance on the pass from Fabian Johnson, Dempsey used a supremely poised sidestep in the box to evade his defender and provide a clinical finish. Dempsey's goal-scoring touch is on another level from any other U.S. player, and it's his calmness in front of the goal that makes all the difference. Landon Donovan had another quiet night for the U.S., so it was important that Dempsey find a way to make a difference. In a game that was chippy, choppy and underwhelming from an aesthetic perspective, Dempsey's moment of inspiration was crucial.

*The TV situation has to get better.* It's a shame that a U.S. World Cup qualifier was only available for $30 on pay-per-view and Ustream, denying large numbers of fans the chance to see an important match. The Guatemalan FA was given the rights by CONCACAF and sold to the highest bidder, which is capitalism at work. But the main fault lies with CONCACAF, which sets the rules for rights sales and could easily take over centralized rights packages for all of the region's World Cup qualifying. That's what UEFA does, which is a win-win for everyone: federations (which make more money), UEFA (which makes more money and gets the games out to the biggest audiences) and, most importantly, fans (who deserve to see a game that's in the national public interest).

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