Jamaica's Nyron Nosworthy, right, kicks the ball away from the United States' Fabian Johnson during the first half of their World Cup qualifying soccer match Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. won, 1-0.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — 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.
While the U.S. dominated the first half with most of the possession, the Americans became disorganized in the final minutes when goalkeeper Tim Howard needed to push away Austin's shot.
Friday's loss at had been the first for the Americans in 19 meetings between the nations. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann responded with large-scale changes.
Captain Carlos Bocanegra returned and took over in central defense from Clarence Goodson, suspended because of yellow-card accumulation. Steve Cherundolo, recovered from a strained right calf, replaced Michael Parkhurst at right back.
Klinsmann changed most of his midfield, keeping only Jermaine Jones and starting Danny Williams, Graham Zusi and Jose Torres in place of Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu. Dempsey moved from midfield to forward and started alongside Gomez, with Jozy Altidore going to the bench.
Zusi, playing his first competitive match for the national team, glanced a shot off the top of the crossbar from 18 yards in the sixth minute. In the 19th, Cherundolo's shot ended up bouncing off the near post after Miller got a hand on the ball.
Williams, playing his best half for the national team, curled a 25-yard shot off a post in the 26th minute — resulted in loud, prolonged groans from fans who stood and cheered for most of the game.
Jamaica: Dwayne Miller; Adrian Mariappa, Nyron Nosworthy, Jermaine Taylor, Lovel Palmer; Jason Morrison, Rodolph Austin, Je-Vaughn Watson (Tremaine Stewart, 75th), Luton Shelton (Kevin Bryan, 66th); Ryan Johnson, Omar Cummings (Dane Richards, 76th)
United States: Tim Howard; Steve Cherundolo, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra, Fabian Johnson; Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Graham Zusi (Maurice Edu, 72nd), Jose Torres (Brek Shea, 67th); Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez (Jozy Altidore, 80th)