Talk about a wild day at The Office. The US national team let the three points slip out of their grasp – and then won them back again in a dramatic 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory over Jamaica on Friday in Kingston.
Brad Evans scored the winner two minutes into stoppage time, just three minutes after Jermaine Beckford seemingly rescued a draw for Jamaica in the 89th minute with a header that canceled out Jozy Altidore’s 30th-minute goal.
But the Seattle Sounders man’s late heroics let the US escape Jamaica with a victory that keeps them unbeaten in three straight World Cup qualifiers and sitting pretty with seven points through four games of the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
Evans silenced the Jamaican crowd in the 92nd minute when he took a pass from Michael Bradley on the left side of the penalty area with his back to goal, swiveled and sent a drive into the upper corner of Donovan Ricketts’ net, rescuing the US from yet another late collapse.
The Americans seemed to have the game well in control after Altidore opened the scoring at the half-hour mark. The AZ Alkmaar goal machine converted his second goal in as many games for the USMNT thanks to an inch-perfect cross from Graham Zusi, who expertly beat O’Brian Woodbine on the dribble down the right wing. Altidore split Jamaican defenders Alvas Powell and Daniel Gordon and met Zusi's cross, sending a powerful header past Ricketts.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s men had the upper hand for most of the rest of regulation, controlling possession and the pace of the match except for some brief lapses in defense.
Nine minutes after Altidore’s opener, the US were caught napping when Jamaica midfielder Rodolph Austin received the ball in the box after a gorgeous chip from Portland Timbers forward Ryan Johnson. And although he was unmarked, the Leeds United man sent a drive off the far post as Evans and Matt Besler gave chase.
The US endured a scary moment 11 minutes out of the break when Jermaine Jones was forced out of the game after an aerial collision with Jamaica defender Daniel Gordon. Geoff Cameron replaced him in the 59th minute, slotting in at right back as Evans pushed up to central midfield.
Altidore also exited the game with an apparent knock, holding his right hamstring in the 83rd minute as he was substituted for Eddie Johnson.
But the Americans seemed to have all three points firmly in the bag as the clock approached 90 minutes – until a minute before regulation when Jamaica won a free kick from about 45 yards out along the left touchline.
Austin sent in a curling free kick that found late substitute Beckford unmarked directly in front of Tim Howard, and the English-born forward headed it into the goal as the Americans were left ball-watching.
But the US continued to press, and found the winner off a quick corner that saw them move into a three-way tie on points in the Hexagonal standings, ahead of Mexico but behind Costa Rica on goal difference.
The victory was also the US’ first on Jamaican soil in six tries in World Cup qualifying and avenged their 2-1 loss at Independence Park last September.
Jamaica, meanwhile, remain winless in the Hex and at the bottom of the table with two points through five matches.
Klinsmann went with the same lineup he fielded five days prior in the US’ 4-3 friendly victory over Germany – the first time in his 28 games in charge that he used the same XI twice. As the coach hinted earlier in the week, Evans again lined up at right back, while Bradley and Jones reprised their roles as the central-midfield tandem.
Jamaica, meanwhile, went with 10 of the same players they fielded in Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Mexico – the only change being Jermaine Johnson replacing FC Dallas’ Je-Vaughn Watson at right midfield.
The Americans next head home for a pair of qualifiers on US soil, against Panama in Seattle on June 11 and vs. Honduras in Salt Lake City on June 18.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Graham Zusi||A hugely impressive game for the Sporting KC man, who delivered a pinpoint cross for Altidore's opener and shone on both sides of the ball|
|2||Rodolph Austin||Jamaica's biggest threat offensively on the night. Put a shot off the post in the first half and served in an inch-perfect free kick for their equalizer|
|3||Brad Evans||Another capable, if not perfect, showing at right back before pushing up to the center of midfield and netting a dramatic winner|