October 12, the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) defeated Antigua & Barbuda 2-1 in the Semifinal round of FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua. It was a hard-fought match with a country with a population of only 82,000 and whose top players play for Antigua Barracuda FC in the U.S. third division USL PRO.
“We knew they would take this game as the game of their lives, and that’s what they did,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “We expected the game to be very difficult.”
With the win, the USA moved into first place in Group A with 10 points heading into their final match in the Semifinal Round against Guatemala. The USA will advance through group play with a win or a draw against Guatemala, and could possibly advance with a loss. The top two teams of the group advance through the Semifinal Round.
USA versus Guatemala kicks off on Tuesday, October 16 at 6 p.m. ET at sold-out LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas and will be broadcast on ESPN2 and Telefutura.
Guatemala and Jamaica, both 2-1-1 with seven points, face each other Friday night.
Eddie Johnson makes his mark
Punctuating his return to USMNT, Seattle Sounders Eddie Johnson scored two goals, including the first half go-ahead goal and the 90th minute game winner. Johnson was assisted first by Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi and then by San Jose Earthquakes Alan Gordon, who earned his first cap and came on for Herculez Gomez in the 73rd minute. Both players regularly deliver assists in MLS, with Zusi leading the League with 15 assists and Gordon adding seven.
It was Johnson’s first goal since scoring on June 15, 2008, in the 8-0 qualifying win against Barbados. Johnson, who last played for USMNT in 2010, is now tied with Brian McBride for second place all-time in World Cup Qualifying goals in U.S. history with 10 in his career. Johnson’s multi-goal performance was his first since he notched a hat trick on October 13, 2004, against Panama in World Cup Qualifying.
“We see a player that has matured a lot and knows now he has a point to prove,” said Klinsmann. “He gets that opportunity and knows maybe at his age there might not be that many opportunities coming, and he takes that one similar to Herculez Gomez how he took his chance in May and June in these games and put himself back into the team.
That is great to see the hunger Eddie brought into the camp and the instinct to be in the right place at the right time.”
Midfielder Michael Bradley returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous two qualifiers because of a muscle injury. Defender Carlos Bocanegra started at left back, where he played the final 30 minutes during the USA’s 3-1 win against Antigua & Barbuda on June 8.
Johnson gave the USA a 1-0 lead with a 20th-minute header off of Graham Zusi’s left-footed cross from the right side and connected with Johnson, who headed the ball past goalkeeper Molvin James. Antigua’s Dexter Blackstock equalized five minutes later when Peter Byers circumvented defender Geoff Cameron near the endline and passed in front of the goal for Blackstock who blasted a low shot past goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Johnson scored his second goal from a sequence begun with a throw-in by Steve Cherundolo. Sacha Kljestan sent the ball to Gordon in the penalty area and he crossed to Johnson who headed it in.
With the win, the USMNT improved to 8-2-2 this year.
U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones, who entered the match for Danny Williams in the second half, received his second yellow card in the tournament and will be suspended for Tuesday’s match against Guatemala.
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Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Antigua & Barbuda
Date: Oct. 12, 2012
Competition: 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier – Semifinal Round
Venue: Sir Vivian Richards Stadium; North Sound, Antigua
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Weather: 81 degrees, muggy
USA – Eddie Johnson (Graham Zusi) 20th minute
ATG – Dexter Blackstock (Peter Byers) 25
USA – Eddie Johnson (Alan Gordon) 90
USA : 1-Tim Howard; 6-Steve Cherundolo, 21-Clarence Goodson, 20-Geoff Cameron, 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.); 19-Graham Zusi (16-Sacha Kljestan, 78), 14-Danny Williams (13-Jermaine Jones, 56), 4-Michael Bradley, 18-Eddie Johnson; 8-Clint Dempsey, 9-Herculez Gomez (17-Alan Gordon, 73)
Subs not used: 2-Michael Parkhurst, 5-Kyle Beckerman, 7-Maurice Edu, 11-Joe Corona, 12-Brad Guzan, 22-Nick Rimando
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
ATG : 18-Molvin James; 5-Marc Joseph, 17-George Dublin, 11-Quinton Griffith, 20-Akeem Thomas, 19-Luke George, 3-Zane Francis-Angol, 14-Randolph Burton, 16-Peter Byers (9-Stefan Smith, 89), 13-Tamorley Thomas, 23-Dexter Blackstock
Subs not used: 1-Brent Mohammed, 21-Keita De Castro, 22-Hazel Pyle, 4-Karanja Mack, 8-Troy Dublin, 12-Moses Ashikodi, 10-Tevaughn Harriett, 7-Kimol Alexander
Head coach: Tom Curtis
Stats Summary: USA / ATG
Shots: 11 / 10
Shots on Goal: 4 / 2
Saves: 1 / 2
Corner Kicks: 7 / 2
Fouls: 11 / 11
Offside: 4 / 1
ATG – Tamorley Thomas (caution) 61st minute
USA – Jermaine Jones (caution) 62
Referee: Neal Brizan (TRI)
Assistant Referee 1: Dion Neil (TRI)
Assistant Referee 2: Ionut Bordieanu (CAY)
Fourth Official: Christophel Stewart (CAY)
Budweiser Man of the Match: Eddie Johnson