The U.S. went ahead when Jozy Altidore played the ball to Jones, who flicked the ball over the defense. In full stride, Dempsey volleyed the ball with his right foot past goalkeeper Noel Valladares from 8 yards. With his 31st goal in 92 appearances, Dempsey moved past Brian McBride into sole possession of third place on the U.S. career scoring list. Dempsey has six of the Americans' 12 goals in qualifying for 2014.
But for the fourth straight road qualifier, the U.S. scored first only to give up the lead — on a play strung together by three defenders.
Oscar Boniek Garcia's corner kick went all the way to the opposite side of the field, bounced four times and was played back to the center by Victor Bernandez after no American chased the ball down. Figueroa chested the pass up to Juan Carlos Garcia, who with his back to the goal scored on an overhead kick from 10 yards that went to Howard's right, leaving the goalkeeper bent over in shock. It was Garcia's first goal in 18 international appearances.
"It's a great goal. Nine times out of 10 it goes up in the stands," Howard said. "From there on, I don't think we played nearly as well as we could have. And I think we got outplayed in a lot of facets of the game."
The general rule in qualifying is to win home games and pick up points on the road. The top three nations in the six-team group represent North and Central America and the Caribbean at next year's tournament in Brazil, and the No. 4 country advances to a playoff for another berth, likely against New Zealand.
Qualifying resumes when the U.S. hosts Costa Rica on March 22 at Commerce City, Colo., then plays four days later at Mexico. The Americans play at Jamaica on June 7.
"You never want to start with zero. but you can't panic. There's nine more games to go," Bradley said. "At this point the three points in the next game are crucial."
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