The U.S. men's national team's road to Russia took an unforeseen detour Friday night in Guatemala.
The U.S. fell to Guatemala for the first time since 1988, losing 2-0 in Guatemala City in their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying semifinal round tilt. Rafael Morales and the ageless Carlos Ruiz scored in the opening 15 minutes, and the U.S. never recovered in falling to third place in Group C. It marks the first time in 13 games that the U.S. has lost to Guatemala in World Cup qualifying (7-1-5).
The U.S. took four points off its first two qualifiers in November and was looking for more, but got a rude awakening in the seventh minute, when Morales headed a corner kick off Mix Diskerud and by Tim Howard to open the scoring. The deficit doubled less than 10 minutes later, as Ruiz ran unmarked behind the U.S. defense on a goal kick and beat Howard on the breakaway for the 60th international goal of his lengthy career.
It was the Guatemala goalkeeper, Paulo Motta, whose kick initiated the sequence on the second goal, who became the story after that.
Motta made a series of top-notch saves to prevent the U.S. from getting back into the game, including a double save on Clint Dempsey and Alejandro Bedoya, denying both from close range in the second half. Minutes later, Dempsey had another clean look at goal but fired right at Motta. The keeper came up again in the 82nd minute, robbing Jozy Altidore of a one-on-one opportunity.
The U.S. didn't threaten after that, and Jurgen Klinsmann's side will go into Tuesday's rematch at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, trailing Guatemala for second place in the group by two points in the quest to reach the CONCACAF hexagonal.
Here's how the match unfolded:
GOALKEEPERS: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton FC), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
DEFENDERS: Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)
MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes FC), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers FC), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
GOALKEEPERS: Jose Carlos Garcia (Coban Imperial), Paulo Motta (Municipal), Ricardo Jerez (Alianza Petrolera)
DEFENDERS: Carlos Castrillo (Comunicaciones), Stefano Cincotta (Chemnitzer FC) Luis Cardona (Comunicaciones), Moises Hernandez (FC Dallas), Cristian Jimenez (Municipal), Hamilton Lopez (Xelaju), Jonathan Lopez (Marquense), Rafael Morales (Comunicaciones)
MIDFIELDERS: Gerardo Arias (Municipal), Jose Contreras (Comunicaciones), Jean Marquez (Comunicaciones), Marco Pappa (Colorado Rapids), Marco Rivas (Municipal), Rodrigo Saravia (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS: Kevin Arriola (Xelaju), Edi Danilo Guerra (Guastatoya), Mafre Icute (Coban Imperial), Luis Martinez (Xelaju), Carlos Ruiz (Municipal), Gerson Tinoco (Coban Imperial)