Brad Evans’ first career international goal turned out to be a big one.
Just when the United States thought Jermaine Beckford had burgled a draw with an 89th minute goal off a set piece, Evans found space and fired a prayer which found the back of the net.
A slow match for much of the second half suddenly jolted to life when Beckford connected on a header off a long free kick and stunned the USA, who had been caught napping late.
It seemed like more of the same for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men. Coming into the match, the United States had scored first in 5 of 6 road qualifiers this World Cup cycle, but had only 4 points to show for it.
The win gives the U.S. sole possession of first place in the Hexagonal table, jumping past Mexico who defeated the Reggae Boyz just three days ago.
(UPDATE: After Mexico’s draw with Panama and Costa Rica’s win over Honduras, there’s a three-way tie for first place in the group, with the United States sitting in second place on goal differential)
The match started in the U.S.’s favor, with Michael Bradley hitting the post early and Fabian Johnson ravaging Jamaica’s right flank. Finally the US opened the scoring when Graham Zusi’s cross connected with Jozy Altidore’s head.
On the other end, the United States back four bent a few times but refused to break for much of the match, and looked set picked up their third clean sheet of Hex play until the late set piece goal.
Early in the second half the U.S. lost Jermain Jones to a concussion (it appeared he may have been knocked out), and the passing subsequently because a bit inaccurate, but the defense held against the growing pressure from Jamaica.
The pace of the game really slowed down after the goal, and neither team seriously threatened on net for a while aside from a shot off the post from Jamaica just before the half. Dempsey also had a bit of a chance on a chip in from Bradley, but the header from the captain went just over.
In the final 15 minutes, both teams found it difficult to hold possession for any length of time as the heat and humidity seemed to affect each side. The 76th minute saw Jamaican substitute Theo Robinson shoot wide of Tim Howard’s goal before U.S. substitute Edgar Castillo tried a long-range chip on the counter and also put it just wide of the far post.
The defense proved leaky again, and the heat proved an enemy of the visitors, but late drama grabbed a much needed victory when it counts.