COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Herculez Gomez curled in a free kick in the 55th minute for the lone goal as the United States beat Jamaica 1-0 in World Cup qualifying Tuesday.
After hitting the frame three times in a dominant first, the United States went ahead after Clint Dempsey was fouled by Rodolph Austin. Gomez's drive from 28 yards went over the defensive wall and to the left of a diving Dwayne Miller, who was only able to lightly brush the ball with his fingertips.
The United States, which made five changes to its starting lineup from Friday's 2-1 loss to Jamaica in Kingston, is level with Guatemala on seven points atop Group A of CONCACAF qualifying semifinals. Jamaica also has seven points but trails on goal difference.
The top two nations advance to next year's six-team regional finals, which will produce three qualifiers for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
"It was important for us to regroup after what happened in Jamaica," Gomez said. "We knew it wasn't our best performance and we had to step forward and apply today. With the help of the crowd, we pushed deep and persevered. It wasn't always pretty, but I think we did it very well."
Seeking its seventh straight World Cup appearance, the U.S. plays at virtually eliminated Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 12, then completes the semis four days later against Guatemala at Kansas City, Kansas.
The 30-year-old Gomez, born to Mexican-American parents, grew up in Las Vegas and was a member of the U.S. team at the 2010 World Cup. It was his fifth international goal and second in qualifying this year.
It was a key moment for a U.S. team missing injured midfielders Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley. Failing to win would have put enormous pressure on the Americans to win their final two qualifiers this year.
"That's my distance. I feel comfortable on the ball, on a free kick, striking the ball," Gomez said. "Thankfully coach had confidence in me. So did my teammates. I struck it and it went on. I'm fortunate and happy.