For a while it looked like the United States Men’s soccer team would cruise to an unspectacular victory over Jamaica behind a first half goal by striker Jozy Altidore. Then for a brief moment it looked as though they had let victory slip away in the final minutes of the game, when Jamaica scored the equalizer. But in the end, Brad Evans was there to save the day and deliver three huge road points for the Americans.
Evans is just about the last player on the field anyone expected to score the game winning goal, let alone do it during injury time in such dramatic fashion. Evans is a recent addition to Jurgen Klinsmann‘s lineup, after a long hiatus from the national team. A midfielder by trade, Evans has been nothing more than a temporary fill at right back for the United States with Timothy Chandler and Steve Cherundolo unavailable due to injury. But on a corner kick during stoppage time, Evans found himself in the right place at the right time and managed to score a goal that saved the U.S. from what would have been a heartbreaking result.
The Americans lost a World Cup Qualifying game in Jamaica last September, allowing goals on two set pieces. Once again, the U.S. allowed a goal on a set piece, and it nearly cost them. The U.S. defense had a few close calls throughout the game, as they appeared to struggle at times against the speed and athleticism of Jamaica, especially in the midfield. Things finally caught up to them late in the game, when Jamaica turned what appeared to be an inconsequential foul near the sidelines into a game-tying goal.
The Americans could have avoided such a predicament altogether had they been able to add to their lead. With Jamaica desperate for points, the “Reggae Boyz” were chasing the game in search of an equalizer for much of the second half, which made them vulnerable defensively. However, the U.S. showcased a sorry excuse for a counter attack, moving slowly and looking lost, despite having a numbers advantage moving forward.
If the United States had been able to handle Jamaica’s speed better, not allowed so many set pieces in their half of the field, possessed the ball better, or finished their chances more efficiently they would have won the game easily, and not needed the last-minute heroics of Evans to save them.
Of course, all is well that ends well. With the goal by Evans, the U.S. avoided disaster and came away with three huge points on the road. The Americans have survived a stretch of three road games in a four-game span, and are now in a three-way tie for first place along with Mexico and Costa Rica. The United States hasn’t been all that impressive during qualifying, but they’ve found a way to get good results. At the moment they are on pace to qualify for the World Cup next summer in Brazil.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him to your network on Google+.