By Allen Ramsey, Goal.com
The USA started its World Cup qualifying campaign with a win, but it wasn't pretty as Antigua & Barbuda pushed Jurgen Klinsmann's side all the way, holding the U.S. to an ugly 3-1 win.
When Carlos Bocanegra bundled home a rebound from a corner seven minutes in, it looked like clear sailing for the USA against a team made up of players largely from the USL Pro League.
That wasn't to be the case.
"No matter what, it’s going to be tough," midfielder Clint Dempsey said after the match. "No matter who you play, big or small, that’s just the way it goes."
The USA struggled throughout the first half to find a way to open Antigua & Barbuda's defense, which looked comfortable playing deep and inviting constant pressure. The second goal always seemed just moments away, but didn't come until deep in the half.
Dempsey finally banged home a penalty just before halftime to make it 2-0.
The Fulham star had played Landon Donovan into the box where he was knocked down with a slide tackle, and the U.S. took a comfortable lead into the break.
The second half would prove even more shocking as the minnows managed to pull a goal back and give the USA a scare.
A defensive mistake from Oguchi Onyewu allowed Peter Byers to slip in behind and in on Tim Howard's goal. Antigua & Barbuda's leading scorer made no mistake with the finish, and suddenly the USA was in the middle of tough match 64 minutes in.
Herculez Gomez put the match to bed in the 71st, finishing into an empty net on his third attempt and restoring the USA's two-goal advantage.
The visiting side actually pushed for another goal in the late stages of the match, but the USA played out a fairly comfortable closing run and earned its first three points of qualifying.
"We’re still happy with the result, we’re happy that we won," Dempsey said. "We would have liked to kept a clean sheet, but now it’s about qualifying."
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