COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ The United States got back on track for a berth in the 2018 World Cup, ending four nervous days with a 4-0 win over Guatemala on Tuesday.
Clint Dempsey scored 12 minutes in and Geoff Cameron, Graham Zusi and Jozy Altidore added goals for the Americans, who risked being eliminated from the qualifying competition with another loss.
“I thought we showed a lot of heart,” Dempsey said. “We showed a lot of character by dealing with a pressure situation.”
In other matches, Andres Guardado and Jesus Corona scored first-half goals as Mexico beat Canada 2-0 to become the first nation to clinch a berth in the six-team final round of qualifying for the North and Central American and Caribbean region.
Following a dismal 2-0 loss at Guatemala City on Friday in which Jurgen Klinsmann played several players out of their most comfortable positions, the U.S. head coach made five lineup changes and shifted two others into their more usual spots.
Cameron doubled the U.S. lead in the 35th minute, and Zusi, added to the roster on Sunday, added a goal just 20 seconds into the second half. Altidore capped the scoring in the 89th.
A loss would have made it virtually impossible for the U.S. to finish among the top two teams in Group C and reach the final round of qualifying, but the victory put the U.S. in good position to advance. The Americans are 27-0-2 at home in qualifying since 2001.
Dempsey scored his 49th international goal, eight behind Landon Donovan’s American record.
In Group C’s other game, Trinidad and Tobago won 6-0 at home against St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Sheldon Bateau scored Trinidad’s only goal in the first half before Joevin Jones, Kenwyne Jones and Kevin Molino padded the lead in the second.
Trevin Caesar then added two more goals in a three-minute span as time was winding down.
Trinidad leads the group with 10 points, three ahead of the U.S. and four ahead of Guatemala.
In Mexico City, Guardado scored on a penalty kick in the 17th and Corona in the 45th for Mexico.
Seeking its seventh straight World Cup berth, Mexico leads Group A with 12 points, followed by Canada and Honduras eight points back.
Canada last played in the World Cup in 1986.
Elsewhere, Honduras won 2-0 over visiting El Salvador on goals by Oscar Boniek Garcia and Romell Quioto.
In Group B, Costa Rica remained in the top spot after beating visiting Jamaica 3-0. Ceslo Borges, Bryan Ruiz and Johan Venegas all scored for the Ticos.
Panama is three points back after beating Haiti 1-0 at home on Felipe Baloy’s 81st-minute goal.