Brad Evans scored his first international goal in the second minute of stoppage time, cancelling out Jermaine Beckford‘s 89th-minute equalizer, as the Americans responded to late adversity with a 2-1 win over the Reggae Boyz in a World Cup qualifier Friday night at National Stadium.
“We didn’t plan it that way . . . but that is what these games are all about — always down to the wire,” Coach Juergen Klinsmann said. “They were angry with themselves for conceding that goal and they reacted in a good way. The willingness was there. They were eager to score another one.”
The result vaulted the U.S. team (2-1-1, seven points) into a three-way tie for first place in CONCACAF’s final round after four of 10 matches. Based on goal difference, Costa Rica (+2) leads the pack, followed by the United States, which has the same +1 as Mexico but has scored more goals. Panama (1-0-3) is fourth with six points, with Honduras (1-2-1) at four and Jamaica (0-3-2) at two.
The Americans have not done well with leads on the road in this qualifying cycle. They conceded an equalizer at Guatemala last year in the semifinal stage and twice allowed leads to turn into defeats: at Jamaica in September and at Honduras in February.
They were heading down an eerily similar path again Friday. Jozy Altidore‘s second goal in less than a week — both set up by Graham Zusi crosses — had stood for 59 minutes before Beckford scored with a header off a set piece.
In added time, though, the Americans played a short corner kick. Michael Bradley took on Alvas Powell on the left side and crossed to Evans, who turned and fired an eight-yard, right-footed shot that took a slight deflection and sailed past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
“It was a totally blind shot. The only thing in my mind was turn and shoot — that was it,” said Evans, a Seattle Sounders midfielder filling a U.S. void at right back. “Pure elation after the goal, for sure, especially doing it in front of our crowd right there. Just a great feeling.”
Bradley described the build-up.
“I was able to play a quick corner with Graham; he played it back to me. I managed to make a little space for myself and put it across on the ground. Brad was in a great spot to finish.”
With no clock on the stadium scoreboard, Evans said he didn’t know how much remained.
“The most difficult part playing here is there is no clock. You have no idea what time in the game it is. There are certain moments in games where you look up and say, ‘Alright, 10 minutes, let’s get through this.’ Every time I asked the ref how much time there was, he wouldn’t even talk to me. He would just run away. I don’t even know what time the goal was scored in, to be honest. I had no idea it was stoppage time.”
Klinsmann was encouraged to see his team respond in the final moments.
“It’s important this team now gets more and more of the mentality to bounce back and to challenge themselves to win here, and not to look for a tie.”
Goalkeeper Tim Howard described the late swing of emotions.
“You feel as low as dirt and then all of a sudden you feel like world-beaters. A point on the road is not the worst thing. We could have been content with that but we hunted for a second goal.”
Bradley addressed the team’s inability to close out the match.
“In an ideal world, and as we move along, we would like to have it where we learn to win these games 1-0, where, at a certain point, you learn how to kill the game off. We also all realize that qualifying for the World Cup, we have to know how to win hard games and learn to deal with the twists that come.”
*Jermaine Jones suffered a concussion when he knocked heads with an opponent in the second half and will continue to be evaluated. He is doubtful to play Tuesday against Panama in Seattle.
*Zusi received a second yellow card and will have to sit out the Panama match. Seven players are carrying one caution, and with another card Tuesday, would miss the June 18 qualifier against Honduras in Sandy, Utah. They are Bradley, Evans, DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Brad Davis, Clint Dempsey and Fabian Johnson.
Howard; Evans, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley; Zusi, Jones (Cameron 59th), Bradley, Dempsey, F. Johnson (Castillo 76th); Altidore (E. Johnson 83rd).
Ricketts; Powell, Gordon, Mariappa, Woodbine; Elliott, Austin, Hue (Beckford 70th), McCleary (O. Daley 75th), J. Johnson (Robinson 68th); R. Johnson.
Costa Rica at Mexico, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Panama at United States, 10 p.m. (ESPN, UniMas)
Jamaica at Honduras, 9 p.m.