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First-half goals propel Guatemala past U.S.
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Guatemala's Gerson Tinoco (white jersey) attempts a shot against the visiting USA in a World Cup qualifier on March 25, 2016, in Guatemala City. (Photo: Alex Meoño)

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala -- Guatemala scored two first-half goals and earned a 2-0 victory over the United States in a fourth-round World Cup qualifier on Friday night at the Estadio Mateo Flores.

Rafael Morales and Carlos Ruiz scored for the host (2W-0D-1L, 6 points), who moved into second place in Group C, while the Americans (1-1-1, 4).fell from first to third.

The Chapines won for the first time in 13 qualifiers (1-5-7) against the U.S. and ended a 21-game winless streak against it that dated back to 1988.

Goalkeeper Paulo Motta made several outstanding saves for the clean sheet and set up the second goal.

The Guatemalans took advantage a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute, when Jean Marquez swung in a corner kick as Morales outmuscled Mix Diskerud to head past goalkeeper Tim Howard into the lower right corner.

Eight minutes later, the U.S. was caught napping as Motta’s goal kick split the defense. Ruiz raced onto the ball and slotted past Howard from 18-yards out. It was the 36-year-old’s 60th international goal and a CONCACAF all-time best 32nd in qualifying.

Forced to chase the game, the USA's best opportunity in the opening half came in the 23rd minute. Alejandro Bedoya found himself rushing in on net alone, only for Motta to save the close-range attempt with his left knee.

Motta was at his best in the 52nd minute, denying veteran striker Clint Dempsey in the middle of the box and then Bedoya again from point-blank range only seconds later.

The 33-year-old custodian stuffed Dempsey's try from the middle of the box in the 57th minute and produced a kick save on second-half substitute Jozy Altidore with eight minutes remaining in normal time.

The Guatemalans came within inches of making it 3-0 in the 71st minute, but Morales’ header off a corner kick struck the crossbar.

The same teams will meet again in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.

 
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