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Guatemala delays USA qualification for Hexagonal with 2-2 tie in Trinidad

Joevin Jones and Carlos Ruiz traded goals in Port of Spain.

Al Bello/Getty Images

USMNT's confident six-goal romp over St. Vincent and the Grenadines was a big step toward the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Perched on the edge of a guaranteed berth in the Hex with a game to spare, all the USA needed was for Trinidad and Tobago to lock out Guatemala with a win in Port of Spain.

This seemed a likely enough outcome before T&T kicked off. The Soca Warriors had won in Guatemala, 2-1, back in November.

But that was almost a year ago. As the first half progressed, it became clear that Guatemala was the sharper side, connecting passes and settling into a comfortable rhythm after weathering the home team's opening salvo.

And it was Guatemala who scored first, through the ageless Carlos Ruiz in the 36th minute.

The goal seemed to shake the Soca Warriors out of what had been an increasingly lethargic performance. Renewed urgency brought fresh impetus to the attack. Joevin Jones equalized on the breakaway in first half stoppage time.

The Seattle Sounders player was T&T's most reliable attacking threat. In the 62nd minute, he brought the go-ahead goal that his team - and USMNT - wanted.

Jones seemed to settle the match when he was dragged down by Cristian Jimenez, drawing an immediate red card for the Guatemalan defender in the 84th minute. A goal and a man up with less than 10 minutes to play, it seemed T&T was heading to the Hex and bringing USMNT with it.

But the Soca Warriors relaxed a little too early. A shot from distance surprised 'keeper Marvin Philip (the main reason Jones' brace was not merely a consolation: he had a busy night), and Ruiz collided with the rebound.

The tie was good enough for T&T. The Soca Warriors will be in the Hex.

The point wasn't quite sufficient to eliminate Guatemala, who now face St. Vincent and the Grenadines at home. That game should yield three points for Los Chapines. If USA loses to T&T, then USA will be out of World Cup qualifying.

Of course, if you watched this match, you will know that the prospect of this Soca Warriors team beating USMNT in America is remote. Trinidad and Tobago will need to get a lot better by September 6 if it is to challenge USA in Jacksonville. And, since T&T is already qualified for the Hex, it may not necessarily care to get a lot better over the next four days.

And even if the USA does lose, Guatemala will need to make up a substantial deficit on goal difference to pip the Americans to the Hex. Los Chapines currently lag 12 goals behind USMNT's goal difference.

A T&T win over USA seems unlikely. A T&T win over USA and a double-digit win for Guatemala over SVG seems like fantasy. It is Guatemala's fantasy for sure. But USMNT fans should safely be able to start dreaming of the Hex.