Anxious American fans had to endure several weeks of tense nervousness ahead of the last two matches in the second round of CONCACAF World Cup qualification, but fortunately, the team was able to overcome the obstacles and comfortably win the final match against Guatemala to spare the blushes of manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
The first match was an away trip to Antigua and Barbuda that proved to be a rather difficult task. The match was deadlocked at 1-1 until the dying moments, when Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson combined for a glorious headed goal to steal the game right at the end. It was a brilliant moment for the player and one must sit back and praise Klinsmann for his brave roster decision to select Johnson over the younger Jozy Altidore.
Eddie Johnson has had a great season for the Seattle Sounders of the MLS but hasn’t featured for the US Men’s National Team in several years. The game-winning goal against Antigua and Barbuda was actually Johnson’s second goal of the match and highlighted the type of display that America needs from its strikers. Johnson was able to find goals when the team wasn’t playing at its best. In the Guatemala match, Johnson added an assist with a good cross for Dempsey’s goal and this cemented him in the team for me.
Two goals and an assist in two crucial matches is the type of performance that America needed and I believe that Eddie Johnson is likely to have more call-ups in the near future. Jozy Altidore is for the moment placed on the back burner and hopefully he will have the fight to go ahead and reclaim his place on the team.
Elsewhere on the pitch, Clint Dempsey had a remarkable match against Guatemala. He was around the goal all throughout the match and proved too much for the defense to handle with his two goals and assist in the game. Clearly he is America’s finest player and it was nice to see what he is capable of when he is in top form.
Michael Bradley also had a decent game back with the team and is also a solid performer for the national team. He put in a lovely chip over the goalie that Dempsey finished for the goal and also had a clear penalty call denied late in the match. He now plays for Roma and has performed well in his few appearances despite being injured for much of the young season.
With team leader Landon Donovan still sidelined, one has to presume that we have yet to see the best of this American side, and hopefully they can produce some results in the final stage of qualification to ensure that the United States has a place at Brazil 2014.
The recent games were a bit nerve-wracking, but considering the vital players that have been hurt, I think Jurgen Klinsmann’s side displayed great poise and strength to navigate through the troublesome group. The team walked the tightrope but managed to come out unscathed and I think that they will be better for it. Eddie Johnson earned his call up and this team is destined for success in the near future. Let us hope they can prevail in the final group round and qualify for the World Cup.