HAVANA Clint Dempsey scored late in the second half and the United States held on to beat Cuba 1-0 in a sloppy and low-energy World Cup qualifier Saturday night, their first match on the communist-run island since 1947.
Half of the lights at rain-soaked Pedro Marrero Stadium went out in the 86th minute, causing a brief delay before the final minutes, when Cuba nearly tied it after a free kick.
But the U.S. held on in the gloom to win its third straight road qualifier and take the lead in Group One of the semifinals in the North and Central American and Caribbean region
In the 39th minute, Oguchi Onyewu sent a pass into the box from midfield and Dempsey jumped up with two Cuban defenders, one of whom mistakenly headed the ball straight to Brian Ching.
Ching held off a defender and dropped the ball to Dempsey, who was all but unmarked when he netted from 12 yards out.
A thunderstorm soaked the field two hours before kickoff, making for swampy field conditions. Footing and ball control was difficult for both teams.
The U.S. embargo meant there were almost no Americans in the stands, though a few officials from the U.S. Interests Section, which Washington maintains in Havana instead of an embassy, organized a special trip to the game. A few brave souls even came with faces obscured by sunglasses and bandannas patterned like the American flag to prevent retribution from the U.S. government.
Cuba began the second half with a flurry of chances but failed to put a shot on goal until the 56th minute, when Pedro Silvio fed substitute Aliani Cervantes on the left side for an unmarked hard shot that U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard had to dive to stop.
IN OTHER GAMES: Honduras 2, Canada 1; Mexico 3, Jamaica 0; Guatemala 1, Trinidad 1; Paraguay 1, Argentina 1; Italy 2, Cyprus 1; Austria 3, France 1; England 2, Andorra 0.