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Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey scored first-half goals as the United States beat Antigua and Barbuda 3-1 in CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
In front of nearly 24,000 people at the Raymond James Stadium, Peter Byers pulled a goal back with a second-half strike but Herculez Gomez sealed the win.
"It was a tricky game. They were difficult to break down," US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "Antigua and Barbuda did a good job of defending. They made it difficult for us to create chances."
"At the end of the day, I think the three points is the starting point that we wanted to have. We know that we have to step it up a lot going into Guatemala, which we will do," Klinsmann added.
The United States opened the scoring in the eighth minute after a corner from Landon Donovan. Bocanegra was on hand to score after goalkeeper Molvin James parried a Gomez header.
Just before half-time the United States doubled their lead when Donovan was fouled in the penalty area and Dempsey made no mistake, hammering the ball down the middle.
The Americans lost Jose Torres to injury early in the second half, allowing Klinsmann to bring Oguchi Onyewu off the bench.
Antigua and Barbuda created a scare when Byers, the team's all-time leading scorer, beat American goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Klinsmann said the aim was to get his side closer to the level of the world's best.
"We have quite a few young players and World Cup qualifying is the real deal," Klinsmann said. "So the last eight to 10 months has been awesome working with these guys but now it is about delivery.
"We want to get closer to the top teams in the world." The United States continue their qualifying campaign on Tuesday in Guatemala.
The Group A encounter was among half a dozen matches on Friday, the start of the penultimate round of qualifiers for the CONCACAF region. The two top finishers in each of three groups advance to the final qualifying round.
Also in Group A, Jamaica beat Guatemala 2-1.
In Group B, Mexico defeated Guyana 3-1 while Costa Rica drew 2-2 with El Salvador.
Carlos Salcido and Giovani Dos Santos scored first half goals for CONCACAF Gold Cup champions Mexico.
Mexico travel to El Salvador on Tuesday while Guyana will return home to host Costa Rica.
Panama beat Honduras 2-0 in Group C and Canada were 1-0 winners over Cuba.
Olivier Occean scored shortly after half-time to give Canada victory in Havana, despite losing goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld, who was sent off in the second half.
Canada host Honduras on Tuesday and Cuba visit Panama before a break in qualifying matches until September.