The United States got back on track for a berth in the 2018 World Cup, ending four nervous days with a 4-0 win over Guatemala on Tuesday night behind goals from Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, Graham Zusi and Jozy Altidore.
Following a dismal 2-0 loss at Guatemala City on Friday night in which Jurgen Klinsmann played several players out of their most comfortable positions, the U.S. coach made five lineup changes and shifted two others into their more usual spots.
Dempsey scored 12 minutes in and Cameron doubled the lead in the 35th. Zusi, added to the roster on Sunday, added a goal just 20 seconds into the second half and Jozy Altidore capped the scoring in the 89th.
A loss would have made it virtually impossible for the U.S. to finish among the top two teams in the group and reach the six-nation finals of North and Central America and the Caribbean, but the victory put the U.S. in good position to advance. The Americans are 27-0-2 at home in qualifying since 2001.
In Group C's other game, Trinidad and Tobago won 6-0 at home against St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Trinidad (3-0-1) leads with 10 points, three ahead of the U.S. (2-1-1). Guatemala (2-2) has six points, and St. Vincent (0-4) has been eliminated. Seeking its eighth straight World Cup berth, the U.S. travels to St. Vincent on Sept. 2, then finishes the round four days later against Trinidad at Jacksonville, Florida.
Midfielder Christian Pulisic, also added to the roster Sunday, made his debut in the 81st minute. At 17 years, 193 days, Pulisic became the youngest American in a qualifier. By appearing in the game, Pulisic became ineligible to play for Croatia, the nation of his grandfather.
The U.S. went ahead after Cameron headed a Guatemala goal kick to Bobby Wood, who jumped over a tackle and sent the ball back to Cameron. From the edge of the center circle, Cameron looped a pass just inside the penalty area to a streaking Gyasi Zardes, who was flanked by Moises Hernandez and Rafael Morales. Zardes used the side of his head to knock the ball down for the trailing Dempsey, who tan onto the ball after two bounces and first-timed a 14-yard right-footed shot to the right of goalkeeper Paulo Motta.
Dempsey scored his 49th international goal, eight behind Landon Donovan's American record. Dempsey has six goals in 10 games against Guatemala and a U.S.-record 14 in World Cup qualifying, one more than Donovan.
It was a rare opening goal for the U.S., which conceded first in nine of its previous 11 matches.
Cameron doubled the lead after Wood was fouled by Cristian Jimenez, Michael Bradley took the free kick, and Cameron got in front of Carlos Castrillo, heading in Michael Bradley's free kick from 8 yards for his fourth international goal.
At the start of the second half, Yedlin played the ball to Zardes, who allowed it to bounced off him. Zusi ran in and got off a quick shot for his fourth U.S. goal, his first since October 2013 in a qualifier at Panama. Ethan Finlay of the hometown Columbus Crew had a goal disallowed late because of a questionable offsides called on Altidore.
Rodrigo Saravia of the Crew gave the ball away to Dempsey, who fed Altidore for his 34th U.S. goal.
Klinsmann shifted Cameron to central defense from right back and moved DeAndre Yedlin to right back from midfield, putting the pair at positions they play more regularly with their clubs in England.
Defender Steve Birnbaum, midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Zusi, and Zardes were inserted into the lineup along with goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who had been scheduled to rotate with Tim Howard.
Other dropped players included the central defense pairing of Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco, and midfielders Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya, who has a sore ankle.