Jürgen Klinsmann will have a lot to answer for after a poor United States performance in Antigua on Friday night, but he won't have to justify his decision to call in Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon ahead of Jozy Altidore. Johnson scored both of the USMNT's goals and Gordon came off the bench to set up the winner as Klinsmann's side squeaked out a 2-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda, despite a poor performance.
Johnson was started in an unorthodox position to start the match. He's a pure center forward and hasn't played anything else during his career, but Klinsmann slotted him into the lineup at left wing. He looked out of place in the spot for much of the match, but was able to run to the right spot on at least two occasions.
The United States' opening goal came in the 20th minute, after an extended spell of possession. Following a corner kick, Graham Zusi delivered a cross to the back post and Johnson rose up above the Benna Boys defense to head past Molvin James.
Antigua and Barbuda struck back quickly, erasing the U.S. lead after just five minutes. Peter Byers set up the equalizer with a great run down the right flank, which featured a brilliant move past Geoff Cameron. Clarence Goodson fell down and was unable to stop Byers' cross from reaching Dexter Blackstock, who finished to level the match at 1-1.
The USMNT was poor for the rest of the half, and they got worse in the second half. At one point, about 70 minutes into the match, the United States was giving the ball away constantly and looking less than comfortable during Benna Boys counter-attacks. Byers, Akeem Thomas and Quinton Thomas all had opportunities to score, and Thomas' shot in the second half curled just inches wide of the far post from 20 yards.
Jermaine Jones entered as a second half substitute and promptly picked up a yellow card, which will see him suspended for Tuesday's match against Guatemala. He was poor in his time on the pitch, but one of Klinsmann's other subs, Gordon, made a very positive impact on the game. Even before setting up the winner, he provided more than Herculez Gomez, who had a rough outing.
A draw started to seem inevitable with nearly 20 minutes remaining in the match, but the U.S. stepped up their game out of desperation in the closing minutes. Michael Bradley had an excellent shout for a penalty in the 87th minute, but was denied by the referee. That looked to be their opportunity to win the match gone by the wayside, but Gordon came up huge in the 90th minute to rescue three points for his team.
The assist came on a cross from a central position, looped to the back post from just outside the penalty area. No one tracked the run of Johnson, and he was left free to head past James, securing a winning goal that never appeared as if it was going to come.
Klinsmann's side now goes into their final match needing just a draw at home against Guatemala to guarantee progression to the next round of World Cup qualifying.