"We're happy with the point still," goalscorer Clint Dempsey said. "We've got four points, and you have to take the positives from it. We would have liked to get the three but we put ourselves in a good position."
A contest that was chippy from the start and riddled with fouls was played at a shockingly fast pace for much of the first half. Neither side was really able to take control of the game and string together long spells of possession, with the physical nature of the play breaking up any chance of the match finding a consistent rhythm.
A moment of quality from Dempsey, who got some very rough treatment throughout the night, opened the scoring late in the first half.
A bombing run down the left from Fabian Johnson saw the fullback slide a pass into Dempsey's feet. The Fulham star's first touch took him around one sliding defender and his second evaded another before he unleashed a right-footed shot that found the net.
Guatemala made a much better show of it in the second half thanks to the introduction of Pappa, who looked dangerous from the moment he stepped on the pitch.
The USA narrowly escaped the home side drawing level in the 68th minute after the Chicago Fire midfielder blasted a shot that was blocked out for a corner. If that shot didn't worry USA goalkeeper Tim Howard, the action from the corner must have.
Howard made a fantastic stop from a point-blank attempt, only to see the ball fall kindly to Carlos Ruiz, who blasted over the top despite what seemed to be a gaping goal.
Ruiz would make amends in the 82nd. A good bit of holdup play at the top of the box from the former MLS star drew a foul from Johnson.
Fittingly, in a game full of whistles and set plays, it would be this free kick that decided the final outcome. Pappa's wonderfully struck free kick left Howard with no chance.
"They had their backs against the wall and they had to throw numbers forward since they lost the first game," Dempsey said. "I thought they did what they do. They hit long balls and try to draw fouls and that's what led to the goal."
Late pushes from both sides came up short, and the USA will have to be content with four points from its first two World Cup qualifying matches.
"I think it's an open group and it will be a competition until the very last game, and that's what you have to expect in a four-team group where two go through," Jurgen Klinsmann said. "You have to go in and get a result in every single game. I think we got a result here."
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