The U.S. opened its World Cup campaign with a tighter-than-desired 3-1 victory over rising Caribbean minnow Antigua & Barbuda, and Carlos Bocanegra made one of the deepest impressions.
The American captain, 33, scored the first goal and gave a solid performance at left back, his former position -- and a problem spot for the U.S., at least on this occasion.
Bocanegra, circling to the far post, knocked home the remains of a Landon Donovan corner kick to give the U.S. and eighth-minute lead. It was the 13th international goal for the former UCLA star from Alta Loma, equaling Hall of Famer Marcelo Balboa's U.S. mark for defenders.
Balboa, from Cerritos, starred for the U.S. at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, was part of the 1998 team and made 128 appearances in a 12-year national team career. Bocanegra, who plays for Rangers in Scotland, has played 105 internationals since debuting for the U.S. in 2001.
Bocanegra is a center back who started his career as a left back, and he moved to the flank Friday when Jose Francisco Torres -- employed on the left with Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo unavailable because of injury -- went down with an ankle injury in the 54th minute.
If Johnson can't return from a calf injury in the next few days, Bocanegra is likely to start on the left in Tuesday's qualifier at Guatemala.
Donovan, the Galaxy captain from Redlands, set up two goals -- he also drew the foul for Clint Dempsey's penalty just before halftime -- in an otherwise quiet performance, and former Galaxy star Herculez Gomez netted the third goal for the U.S.
U.S. grades can be found here.
2014 WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
United States 3 (Bocanegra 8, Dempsey 44, Gomez 72), Antigua & Barbuda 1 (Byers 65)
Jamaica 2 (Phillips 40, Johnson 46), Guatemala 1 (Pezzarossi 92+)
Mexico 3 (Salcido 11, G. Dos Santos 15, og Rodrigues 51), Guyana 1 (og Moreno 62)
Costa Rica 2 (Saborio 10, Campbell 15), El Salvador 2 (Gutierrez 23, Romero 54)
Cuba 0, Canada 1 (Occean 54)
Honduras 0, Panama 2 (Perez 64, 80)