On a night of soccer upsets, the U.S. on Wednesday suffered its first World Cup qualifying loss on the road to South Africa 2010 when it was beaten, 2-1, by Trinidad and Tobago at Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Mexico came within inches of also being upset and of finding itself on the verge of World Cup elimination before securing a vital point in a 2-2 tie with Canada at Edmonton.
Meanwhile, Cuba, which had been routed, 6-1, by the U.S. on Saturday, bounced back to stun Guatemala, 2-1, in Havana and leave Guatemala in serious qualifying trouble.
If Trinidad and Tobago, playing at home, can defeat Cuba in November when qualifying resumes, and if the U.S. beats Guatemala in Denver, as expected, Trinidad and Tobago would join the U.S., Costa Rica and El Salvador in 2009's six-team "hexagonal" from which three teams are assured a place in South Africa.
The Salvadorans clinched their final-round place Wednesday night with a 3-0 victory over Suriname at San Salvador. Costa Rica, which had earlier secured its spot, edged Haiti, 2-0, at San Jose.
Jamaica also bounced back into the qualifying picture. The Reggae Boyz followed up Saturday's 1-0 upset of Mexico by beating Honduras by the same score, also at Kingston, on a first-half goal by Lucas Shelton.
For the U.S., the loss was not entirely unexpected. Coach Bob Bradley fielded a young team, starting only three of the players who had crushed Cuba. Trinidad and Tobago took the lead on a goal by 40-year-old Russell Latapy, who had come out of international retirement, but the U.S. tied it on a goal by Charlie Davies off a pass from Jozy Altidore.
It was an Altidore mistake that led to the loss. The teenager brought down Makan Hislop in the penalty area and thus allowed another veteran, Dwight Yorke, to give Trinidad and Tobago the win with a well-struck penalty kick.
In Edmonton, Mexico twice had to come from behind and then hang on desperately for the tie. Ali Gerba and Tomas Radzinski scored for Canada, while Mattias Vuoso and Carlos Salcido did so for Mexico.
Jones reported from Los Angeles.