GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – Marco Pappa scored on a free kick in the 83rd minute, giving Guatemala a 1-1 tie with the United States in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night.
Clint Dempsey put the United States ahead in the 40th minute, but Fabian Johnson pulled down Carlos Ruiz just outside the penalty area to set up the late free kick in a dangerous position. Pappa, a Chicago Fire midfielder, put a 24-yard shot just under the crossbar that froze goalkeeper Tim Howard.
It was a disappointing result for the 28th-ranked Americans, who failed for long stretches to impose their will against 85th-ranked Guatemala, a team that has never qualified for the World Cup.
Seeking its seventh straight appearance in soccer’s showcase, the U.S. (1-0-1) tops Group A of North and Central America and the Caribbean on goal difference over Jamaica (1-0-1), which tied 0-0 at Antigua and Barbuda. Guatemala (0-1-1) is last with one point.
The top two teams advance to next year’s six-nation regional finals, which will produce three qualifiers for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
The Americans extended their unbeaten streak against Guatemala to 18 games (12-0-6) since 1988 and improved to 6-0-5 against the Guatemalans in World Cup qualifying.
Dempsey scored his 27th international goal for the United States.