The Amercan’s totally dominated the first half, looking like the home side as Guatemala was content to play their counterattacking game and looked for half-chances playing off Ruiz.
So it was no surprise when the U.S. took the lead in the 40th minute. Fabian Johnson, who returned to the US lineup at left back, picked up a loose ball at midfield and made a good run to the top of the 18-yard box, where he fed Clint Dempsey. The Fulham man did the rest, dancing around a defender and finding the back of the net to quiet the home crowd.
In the second half, Guatemala brought on Pappa and forward Dwight Pezzarossi and the home side started to ask a lot more questions of the patched up U.S. defense.
First Pappa shot just wide of Howard’s goal off a deflection in the 67th minute and from the ensuing corner, the ball was headed back in to defender Luis Rodríguez, whose shot was brilliantly saved by Howard. The rebound fell to Ruiz with the goal at his mercy, but the former MLS man skied his shot over badly, much to the relief of the Americans.
It seemed like the US had ridden out the Guatemala pressure and thought they had scored a second goal in the 78th minute when Demspey played in substitute Jozy Altidore, but someone the Salvadoran referee called the play back for the foul on Dempsey instead of playing advantage, and Jones wasted the ensuing free kick.
The Americans then paid the price for not converting their first half pressure into more goals when in the 81st minute Fabian Johnson took down Ruiz just outside the top of the box and Pappa made no mistake, drilling the ball into the upper 90 and giving Tim Howard no chance.
“Obviously when you control a game the way we did, and kind of pass the ball around the way we did, sooner or later you’ve got to score the second one, and close it in,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told reporters postgame. “You’d be disappointed when something like that didn’t happen.”
“In a game like that, 80th minute, we just have to be a little smarter and tighter defensively,” midfielder Maurice Edu said. “Today we had a little slip up and they were able to get themselves back in the game. It’s about playing a committed and full 90 minutes.”
But the failure to maintain the lead and take all three points was as much as result of the inability to put in a second goal as any defensive shortcomings. Unable to add to their lead, the US found themselves under pressure that they were eventually unable to bear.
“We need to just keep digging our heels in and keep going at them, and finish teams off,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “And we go up 1-0, and you can see they’re dejected, that’s the time to finish teams off. Going for that second one, and being bold and aggressive is [just as] important as the first one.”