Brad Evans saved the United States from another deflating World Cup qualifier on the road.
After Jamaica’s Jermaine Beckford tied the score in the 89th minute, Evans scored an unlikely goal in the second minute of second-half stoppage time following an excellent pass from Michael Bradley, giving the U.S. a thrilling 2-1 win over Jamaica at Kingston on Friday night that solidified the Americans’ chances of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
“It makes traveling a little easier,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.
Jozy Altidore scored for the second straight game, putting the Americans ahead in the 30th minute. They had scored the first goal in four of five previous road qualifiers under Klinsmann, but were only 1-2-1 in those matches.
It looked as if they would drop points again when an unmarked Beckford beat goalkeeper Tim Howard with a close-range header from Rodolph Austin’s 40-yard free kick. In wasting an early lead during in the semifinal round last September, the U.S. allowed both Jamaica goals off corner kicks.
But just over a minute into four minutes of stoppage time, Bradley quickly played an American corner kick to Graham Zusi. He gave the ball right back, and Bradley faked around Alvas Powell and slid a pass to Evans.
With three Jamaicans about 5 yards from him, Evans spun and beat goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts from about 10 yards. It was the first international goal for Evans, starting at right back because Steve Cherundolo is resting after a knee injury sidelined him from December to April, and Timmy Chandler tore a left knee ligament last month.
“They’re dire moments.” Evans said. “I think we can do better at certain moments, and I think everybody will tell you that from the top down. So there’s still work to be done. But three points, on the road, in a place we haven’t won, is pretty special.”
Starting a stretch of three qualifiers in 12 days, the U.S. (2-1-1) improved to seven points in the 10-game final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, trailing Costa Rica (2-1-1) on goal difference and ahead of Mexico (1-0-4) on goals scored. Costa Rica won 1-0 at home against Honduras on a goal by the New York Red Bulls’ Roy Miller, and Mexico tied 0-0 at Panama (1-0-3), which has six points.
Honduras (1-2-1) has four points and the Reggae Boyz (0-3-2) have two, with little chance of reaching next year’s tournament in Brazil.
“We are obviously disappointed,” Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said.
The Americans host Panama on Tuesday on Evans’ home field with Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders, then play Honduras on June 18 at Sandy, Utah. The top three nations qualify for next year’s 32-nation tournament in Brazil, and the No. 4 team meets New Zealand in a playoff for another berth.
The U.S. had been 0-4-1 in qualifiers at The Office, as Kingston’s stadium is known.
“It’s a very, very difficult place to come in,” Klinsmann said. “The game was a real fight.”
Coaching his 28th game since taking over from Bob Bradley in July 2011, Klinsmann started the same lineup in consecutive matches for the first time with the U.S. But three in a row won’t happen.
Jermaine Jones, the tough American midfielder, sustained a concussion when elbowed by Daniel Gordon during a corner-kick scramble early in the 56th minute, and Altidore walked off gingerly in the 83rd minute and pointed to his left hamstring. Zusi was given a caution for his foul 40 yards out that led to Austin’s free kick and Jamaica’s goal, and he will be suspended Tuesday for yellow-card accumulation.
Bradley nearly scored in the second minute, sending a 20-yard right-footed shot off the post to the right of Ricketts.
Altidore’s goal came after Zusi streaked down the right side, got by left back O’Brian Woodbine and crossed. Altidore split Gordon and Powell and beat Ricketts with a header from just inside the 6-yard box.
It was the 15th goal in 58 appearances for Altidore, who combined with Zusi on the first goal in Sunday’s 4-3 exhibition win over Germany at Washington, D.C., Altidore’s first goal for the national team since November 2011.
Austin hit a post to Howard’s right in the 39th.