COLUMBUS, Ohio — The United States rebounded from a loss at Jamaica and moved back into a tie for its group lead in World Cup qualifying, beating the Reggae Boyz 1-0 Tuesday as Herculez Gomez curled a free kick in the 55th minute.
After hitting the frame three times in a dominant first half as goalkeeper Dwayne Miller made several sparkling saves, the U.S. 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 Miller, who was only able to lightly brush the ball with his fingertips.
“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.”
A rowdy, partisan crowd of 23,881 erupted into chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” on a night American players said they were thinking about the 11th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Fans received small American flags to commemorate the anniversary, and there was a moment of silence before kickoff.
Players circled the field after the game, waving to fans and raising their arms in celebration.
The U.S., which made five changes to its starting lineup from Friday’s 2-1 loss in Kingston, is tied with Guatemala (2-1-1) at seven points in Group A of the North and Central American and Caribbean semifinals.
Jamaica (2-1-1) 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.
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, Kan.
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.