With the heat building and the clock running down, it looked as if the United States would open World Cup qualifying with a victory on one of the most remote parts of the road.
Then Carlos Ruiz scored in the 88th minute, lifting Guatemala into a 1-1 tie Sunday and sending the Americans home with just a point instead of three.
While the U.S. team dominated the first half and took a 1-0 lead on Ante Razov's injury-time goal, outshooting Guatemala 7-2, the Guatemalans outshot the Americans 14-3 in the second half.
And the home team tied it when German Ruano sent a long pass downfield and Dwight Pezzarossi outjumped Greg Vanney, heading the ball into the path of Ruiz, who beat defender Robin Fraser and goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Eight minutes earlier, Freddy Garcia nearly tied it when his corner kick skimmed off Fraser's head and bounced off the far post.
"We earned an important point on the road," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "The conditions were difficult with the travel and the heat, but it wasn't something we weren't expecting and it wasn't something we weren't prepared for. Winning at home and taking points on the road is what World Cup qualifying is all about."
Razov scored for the third straight game. Earnie Stewart took the ball at the top of the penalty area and sent it back to Claudio Reyna, who quickly passed to Razov.
Razov's shot deflected off defender Luis Swisher and beat goalkeeper Edgar Estrada with 34 seconds to play in the first half.
The game originally was scheduled for Guatemala City but was moved by the home team to this inland town, about 100 miles away. The gametime temperature at Mazatenango was about 93 degrees, about 10 degrees warmer than in Guatemala City.
"Obviously the heat was a big factor," Arena said. "But I thought the Guatemala players benefited from it more in the second half."
The top two nations in each of the three semifinal groups advance to the six-nation finals of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.
"We had a number of good opportunities, but only came through when it was urgent," Guatemala coach Julio Cesar Cortes said. "We wanted to win but were very lucky to get a tie."
In Sunday's other Group E game, Costa Rica was at Barbados. Next Sunday, the United States is at Costa Rica before opening the home portion of its schedule against Barbados on Aug. 16 at Foxboro, Mass.
In Group C, Mexico won 1-0 at Panama; and in Group D, Honduras won 5-2 at El Salvador and Jamaica won 1-0 at St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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