“The first 30 minutes were outstanding,” Coach Juergen Klinsmann said. “The only thing that was missing was scoring goals. Posts, unfortunately, don’t count.”
From 30 yards, Gomez swerved his effort just inside the right post, breaking the tense atmosphere in front of 23,881 at sold-out Columbus Crew Stadium and relieving mounting pressure on a U.S. team heavily favored to earn a 2014 World Cup berth in Brazil.
The United States, Jamaica and Guatemala will take 2-1-1 records and seven points apiece into the last two matchdays of this regional semifinal round group. Two teams will advance to next year’s six-nation final round.
The Americans will visit Antigua & Barbuda (0-3-1) on Oct. 12 and host Guatemala four days later in Kansas City, Kan.
After losing to the Reggae Boyz on Friday, the United States ruled the night but was stymied by the framework, by goalkeeper Dwayne Miller and by several agonizing deflections.
Gomez solved the mystery with a wonderful strike — although he did receive help from Miller, who was slow to react as the ball streaked over the defensive wall.
“I got a little fortunate, but after all the chances we had in the first half, we deserved a little good fortune,” said Gomez, who, at 30, was a late bloomer on the U.S. scene and has scored three of his five international goals this year.
Gomez’s appetite for the game, and for scoring goals, has put him into Klinsmann’s good graces.
“When you talk about hunger, he’s probably a role model,” Klinsmann said. “This is something we need to develop even more in our team — that hunger to succeed, that hunger to score, but also that willingness to suffer” before the goals arrive.
Gomez received strong support from four players who didn’t start in the 2-1 loss in Jamaica. Danny Williams was placed in his best position — deep central midfield, after serving on the right side in the past — and controlled the tempo. Graham Zusi (University of Maryland) and Steve Cherundolo formed an effective partnership on the right side, and Jose Torres was poised on the left.
From the start, the Americans hoarded possession and manufactured opportunities. A goal, however, was elusive.
Zusi’s 15-yarder skimmed the crossbar. Cherundolo’s cross caromed off Adrian Mariappa and was touched off the right post by Miller. Williams pounded a 30-yard drive off the left post.
Reaching halftime at 0-0 was a victory for the Reggae Boyz, who sat back and absorbed enormous pressure while seeking to counterattack. The second half was more of the same: The Americans probed for openings while Jamaica bunkered and kept an eye on the clock.