Brad Evans scored in the second minute of second-half stoppage time, 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.
Jozy Altidore put the Americans ahead in the 30th minute, but Jermaine Beckford tied the score off a free kick in the 89th as the U.S. again failed to hold a lead on the road.
Just over a minute into four minutes of stoppage time, Michael Bradley quickly played a corner kick to Graham Zusi, who gave the ball right back. Bradley faked around Alvas Powell and slid a shot to an 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 and Timmy Chandler weren’t available.
“They’re dire moments.” Evans said. “There’s still work to be done. 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 Rico won 1-0 at home against Honduras 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.
The Americans host Panama on Tuesday in Seattle on Evans’ home field with the Major League Soccer’s Sounders and 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, and the Americans had wasted leads in four of its previous five road qualifiers under U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann along with a 0-0 tie at Mexico, going 1-2-2 in those matches.
“It’s a very, very difficult place to come in,” Klinsmann said. “The game was a real fight. We at the end are the ones that have the three points. It makes traveling a little easier.”
Coaching his 28th game since taking over from Bob Bradley in July 2011, Klinsmann started the same lineup in consecutive games 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 during a corner-kick scramble early in the second half, and Altidore walked off gingerly in the 83rd minute and pointed to his left hamstring. Zusi will be suspended for one game for yellow-card accumulation after his foul led to a free kick and Jamaica’s goal.
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 defenders Daniel 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.
Jamaica’s Rodolph Austin beat the U.S. defense in the 39th minute and, with Evans trying to catch up, sent a shot from inside the penalty area off the post to goalkeeper Tim Howard’s right.
Jones took elbow to the head from Gordon in front of the goal during a 56th-minute corner kick, stayed down for about two minutes and was groggy. He walked off the field with a person holding each arm, and Geoff Cameron replaced Jones in the 59th.
Zusi’s foul led to Austin’s free kick about 40 yards out, and an unmarked Beckford headed the ball in as Howard stayed on his line. In wasting an early lead during in the semifinal round last September, the U.S. allowed both Jamaica goals on corner kicks.