World Cup qualifying: United States defeats Antigua and Barbuda, 3-1

I know what you are thinking, and it’s not unwarranted. The first step on the road to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was no diamond. More like a fistful of gravel.

Possession didn’t translate into goals, players made an extra pass instead of testing the Antigua goalkeeper, Oguchi Onyewu looked painfully slow and out of position on the conceded goal, and injuries have made a mess of the left back position. If some of those issues resurface Tuesday in Guatemala City’s cauldron, where soccer’s beauty is barred at the gates, a draw becomes the best-case scenario.

So Juergen Klinsmann has some concerns moving forward. He is optimistic Fabian Johnson will return from a calf injury. He’s not optimistic about Jose Torres’s ankle injury. (X-ray results are pending.)

Johnson’s return is crucial, for it would allow Carlos Bocanegra to remain in the middle, paired with Clarence Goodson or Geoff Cameron.

The Americans weren’t alone in their opening-match shortcomings. Mexico won by just two goals at Azteca against lightweight Guyana. Honduras, a World Cup squad two years ago, lost at home to Panama, leaving Canada in good position. And Costa Rica relinquished a two-goal lead at home and drew with El Salvador.

So three points are three points, no matter how they’re obtained. The truer measure of this U.S. squad will come Tuesday and in the many months to come.

For my USA match report, click here.

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Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.

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