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October 12, 2012
Johnson returns to US lineup, scores both goals in 2-1 WCQ win

Eddie Johnson marked his return to the U.S. lineup with both goals in a 2-1 win.
Eddie Johnson marked his return to the U.S. lineup with both goals in a 2-1 win.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
NORTH SOUND, Antigua—Eddie Johnson returned to the U.S. national team lineup in a big way on Friday, scoring two goals including the stoppage-time game-winner in a crucial 2-1 World Cup Qualifying win over Antigua and Barbuda at rainy Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.

The U.S. managed just one shot on goal through the first 80 minutes of the match. Fortunately, it went into the net. In the 20th minute, Graham Zusi took a short pass from Michael Bradley and found Johnson inside the six-yard box. Johnson bounced a sharp header past goalkeeper Molvin James to give the US a 1-0 lead.

The Benna Boyz responded quickly, however, exploiting the USA’s decimated left flank for the game-tying goal in the 25th minute. Peter Byers took the ball deep off the right post, then cut it back into the six for Dexter Blackstock, who angled a shot past fallen defender Clarence Goodson and goalkeeper Tim Howard and into the left inside netting.

Both goalscorers had another solid chance before the intermission, but Howard snatched the ball up just ahead of the onrushing Blackstock in the 31st minute, and Johnson’s 32nd-minute header off another Zusi service missed the mark in the 32nd.

By the time Michael Bradley sent a long shot wide right in the closing minutes of the half, the intermittent rain had turned into a downpour that made the already choppy cricket ground even more difficult, and with swirling winds added to the mix in the second half, neither team showed much polish on the ball. The Benna Boyz played longball to little effect, while the U.S. tried with little success to play a shorter passing game. In the 64th minute, Bradley fed the ball into the box for Herculez Gomez, but the Mexico-based forward’s touch was too heavy and James easily collected the ball. Eight minutes later, Gomez chipped a promising ball into the box, but just out of reach of the leaping Clint Dempsey.

The difference-maker for the U.S. turned out to be a pair of late substitutions – National Team debutante Alan Gordon for Gomez in the 73rd minute and Sacha Kljestan for Zusi in the 78th .

Kljestan challenged James with a dipping shot to the base of the right post in the 81st minute, and challenged the Antigua ‘keeper again in the 84th. Two minutes later , Kljestan teed up a corner kick that Michael Bradley turned into a wicked far-post header thwarted only by a stunning one-hand save off the crossbar by James.

While Kljestan energized the U.S. attack, it was Gordon who orchestrated Johnson’s game-winner, sending a long service into the six-yard box that Johnson headed home in the first minute of stoppage time.

The win leaves the U.S. with ten points in Group A (3-1-1) heading into Tuesday’s Group finale against Guatemala at Livestrong Sporting Park. In addition to the injured Landon Donovan, Brek Shea and Edgar Castillo, U.S. defender Jermaine Jones will miss the match after receiving his yellow card of the Qualifying round in the 62nd minute of Friday’s match.

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