Eddie Johnson backed up his first call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team in over two years not once. But twice.
Johnson scored opened the scoring in the 20th minute, then grabbed the the game-winner in the 90th minute to deliver the U.S. to a tougher-than-expected 2-1 win over Antigua & Barbuda in Friday’s World Cup Qualifier at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
The Seattle Sounders striker’s 13th and 14th international goals were his first in over four years, his last coming on June 15, 2008 in a lopsided 8-0 win against Barbados.
Alan Gordon earned his first cap when he came on for Herculez Gomez in the 73rd minute, and 17 minutes later, floated a ball to Johnson, whose free header cleanly beat Molvin James to the far post.
Dexter Blackstock scored the lone goal for the hosts in the 25th minute.
Second half substitute Jermaine Jones was issued a caution in the 66th minute and will be not be available for Tuesday’s game against Guatemala at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
Despite the narrow pitch, the visitors opened the game with an enterprising approach, and used the running lanes along the touchlines effectively.
MLS assist leader Graham Zusi exhibited his propensity to make a play 20 minutes in when he took a ball from Michael Bradley, and crossed it far post to Johnson, who leaped over the defense and pounded his header through.
The American lead wouldn’t last long. Five minutes after Johnson’s goal, Peter Byers broke away from Geoff Cameron and played it inside to Blackstock, who slipped it between Tim Howard and the near post in the 25th minute.
Bradley nearly regained the lead in the 40th minute when he ripped a shot from outside that box, beating James. But the ball crashed off the post and the score remained even going into the half.
Surprisingly, Antigua & Barbuda held a 3-1 shots on goal advantage at the interval. If the U.S. was going to return to assume its dominance over the twin island nation, it would need to test James with far greater frequency.
At least that was the plan. In the second half, the U.S. stumbled the closer they came to frame, with passes missing their marks and heavy touches falling to James.
Despite their struggles, the U.S. nearly pocketed the go-ahead in the 86th minute when Bradley whipped a header that caught the James’ left mitt and smacked the bar.
It looked like the slim pitch would frustrate the Americans enough to settle for the draw with full time approaching. That was until Johnson made a return trip to the scoresheet in two seconds before stoppage as he nodded Gordon’s chip pass inside the far post to deliver his squad from another embarrassing scoreline.