U.S., Jamaica Reach Final Round of World Cup Soccer Qualifying

The U.S. defeated Guatemala 3-1 to reach the final stage of regional qualifying for soccer’s 2014 World Cup. Jamaica also advanced from the group with a 4-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda.

Clint Dempsey got two goals and an assist, while team captain Carlos Bocanegra also scored for the U.S. at a sold-out Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, last night.

The U.S., seeking to reach soccer’s global championship for the seventh straight edition, finished atop its four-team pool with 13 points from six games. Jamaica was second on goal difference from Guatemala, with each on 10 points.

“We want to go to the World Cup and this is the first step in getting there,” Dempsey told ESPN in a televised interview. “It’s going to be tough.”

The top two countries from each of three pools play in the last round of qualifying for the North and Central America and Caribbean region. The top three claim a spot at the World Cup, while the fourth-place finisher enters a two-game playoff against the winner of the Oceania group, currently New Zealand.

In Group C, Honduras routed Canada 8-1 to advance at the expense of its opponent. Panama drew 1-1 in Cuba to secure the second qualifying spot. Honduras and Panama each finished with 11 points, one more than Canada.

Mexico, which had already qualified from Group B, won 2-0 at home against El Salvador to finish atop Group B with a maximum 18 points. Costa Rica routed Guyana 7-0 to secure the final qualification spot with 10 points.

Brazil is scheduled to host the World Cup from June 12 to July 13, 2014.

Early Goals

Guatemala went ahead last night as Carlos Ruiz collected a long pass in the fifth minute and took one touch to go around U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard before sliding the ball into the net.

Five minutes later, Bocanegra redirected Dempsey’s header from a corner into the net. In the 18th minute, Dempsey lifted Eddie Johnson’s cross over goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez from close range to make it 2-1.

Dempsey then tapped in Michael Bradley’s chip over goalkeeper Jerez in the 36th minute for his 30th international goal, tying Brian McBride as the team’s third-highest all-time scorer behind Landon Donovan (49) and Eric Wynalda (34).

With Jamaica leading 2-0, Guatemala had to get a goal or rely on Antigua and Barbuda scoring to get back into the second qualifying spot. Guatemala got a break when Antigua striker Quinton Griffith curled a 25-yard (22-meter) free kick into the net in the 61st minute at Independence Park in Kingston.

With 12 minutes remaining in each match, Jamaica retook second place on goal difference when Dane Richards scored. The Reggae Boyz made certain of advancing when Richards got a second goal two minutes before the end of the game.

After failing to qualify for the World Cup from 1954 through 1986, the U.S. has played at every edition since 1990, making the quarterfinals in 2002 and the round of 16 in 1994 and

2010. In nine appearances, the U.S. has a 7-5-17 record at the quadrennial tournament.

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