KINGSTON, Jamaica – Chaos reigned as the final minutes ticked away in the US national team's 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Jamaica at the Jamaica National Stadium on Friday night. By that point, a tense, increasingly physical affair had dissolved into a late frenzy of goals, massed bodies in penalty boxes, deafening noise and stunned heartbreak.
But it was, in large part, US coach Jurgen Klinsmann's faith in the two MLS players on the right side of the field that made the difference. Sporting KC's Graham Zusi and Seattle Sounders' Brad Evans kept their heads within the chaos, and made sure the USMNT left "the Office" with three huge points.
Zusi, who has earned Klinsmann's trust with over the past year, set up the visitors' first goal, and later began the sequence that led to the stoppage-time winner from Evans, the last player called into the current group and the subject of a positional experiment at right back.
“The last couple minutes of the game [we said], 'Let's throw guys forward, let's try to get a goal,'” Evans explained after the match. “Quick free kick from Graham, who plays [Michael] Bradley, who's screaming his head off for the ball. A quick turn and he found me on a good pass. A quick little half-turn, got an inside-of-the-foot shot off and I think it took a little deflection.”
It did seem to deflect slightly on its way past Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who plays for the Portland Timbers. But regardless it gave the Yanks a vital three points and left the Reggae Boyz languishing well behind the pack in the CONCACAF Hexagonal standings.
And, perhaps even more important to Evans, it had the coach marveling at the storybook nature of his contribution in his first qualifying appearance in a relatively unfamilar position – Evans plays in the midfield for the Sounders – especially with the USMNT's next game taking place in his Seattle stomping grounds.
“I think he's growing into his role, he understands that it's there for him to grab,” said Klinsmann. “And you've just got to let him play his role, let him make mistakes, let him make his game. Find your game, find understanding with the center backs, with the midfield in front of him, in this case Graham Zusi. ...
"The moment was there for him now, and he's in. He's in. You've just got to give him a compliment for that.”