In an absolutely thrilling finish, the United States avoided a massive embarrassment and defeated Antigua and Barbuda, 2-1, on a goal in the 90th minute by midfielder Eddie Johnson.
Johnson's goal came not a second too soon for the USMNT, as the cascading rain falling at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium had seemingly signaled an even drearier result for the United States.
Those who watched the contest saw the United States continually hold the ball and dominate possession while making very few scoring attempts. The Yanks' first goal came in the 20th minute off a fantastic header from Johnson, and it looked like the heavy favorites might pull away.
However, Antigua and Barbuda came roaring back with a goal in the 25th minute by Dexter Blackstock, and the teams stalemated without a goal until Johnson came back in the clutch for the U.S.
Though the United States was playing without many of its star players, this win undoubtedly comes as a huge relief. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann would have faced a cavalcade of criticism had his team tied against a far less talented team.
Nevertheless, a win is a win. With that in mind, here's a look at a recap of Friday night's game, starting with the best tweets of the night.
Tweets of the Night
After the victory, ESPN's Marc Stein, who usually handles the NBA, made an interesting point about how relieved Klinsmann must be:
Germany scored six in Ireland today and Jurgen Klinsmann still had a better Friday— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) October 13, 2012
When Johnson scored the match's first goal, the official United States Soccer Twitter feed gave an interesting statistic on the rarity of the midfielder's scoring:
That's Johnson's first goal for the #USMNT since June 15, 2008 vs. Barbados in the 8-0 World Cup Qualifying win. USA 1, ATG 0, 22'— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) October 12, 2012
Following Blackstock's goal, the Fox Soccer Trax feed made it abundantly clear that the United States was not playing up to par on Friday:
Wow, Blackstock gets a bounce and gets in on Howard. A let off for the USA. This is embarrassing.— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) October 12, 2012
When the ball went through the net, United States goalie Tim Howard could be seen expressing his frustration through a non-printable four-letter word. American Soccer Now's Twitter feed asked if any U.S. fans were feeling the same way:
Any lip readers catch Tim Howard's reaction? Any #USMNT fans share that monosyllabic sentiment?— American Soccer Now (@ThisIsASN) October 12, 2012
One of the biggest areas that the United States struggled on Friday was in crosses, with the exception of Graham Zusi. ESPN's Paul Carr had a wonderfully telling mid-game tweet that showed the contrast:
Graham Zusi has completed 4 of his 7 crosses. Rest of #USMNT is 0-4.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) October 12, 2012
Grades for Key Players
Eddie Johnson, USA: A
An absolute hero on Friday night, Johnson scored both of the United States' goals and was on fire all game long.
It seemed as if every header that went up in Antigua and Barbuda's zone, Johnson was there trying to make an attack for the United States.
With his team's World Cup hopes dangling, the 28-year-old midfielder came through in the clutch and saved a ton of scorn stateside.
After this performance, Johnson deserves some more run after a long absence on the international scene.
Dexter Blackstock, Antigua and Barbuda: A
It does not matter how the 26-year-old midfielder found the back of the net. All that matters is that he scored a critical goal for his team and put it in a position to come away with a draw.
Unfortunately for the team, it was not to be on Friday night. However, considering what an underdog Antigua and Barbuda was coming into this contest, Blackstock is nothing short of a hero.
Tim Howard, USA: B-
Outside of allowing the goal to Blackstock, there really was not much to complain about with Howard's performance.
The keeper may never have another fantastic game the way he did against Mexico earlier this summer, but he's a steady hand for Jurgen Klinsmann's club.
Molvin James, Antigua and Barbuda: A
While the opposition failed to be aggressors throughout the match, James made critical stops when needed.
The only problem is that his defense could not stop the United States' attack when it was absolutely necessary.
Nonetheless, it was a clutch performance in a match that was expected to be a bloodbath.
Clint Dempsey: F
Seen barking at teammates and giving relatively scowling glances throughout the match, Dempsey was as ineffective as a leader as he was a player on Friday.
As one of the few stars actually playing in these matches for the United States, this performance was nothing short of a failure.
While the United States hung on and won by a thread, let's hope we see both a better attitude and performance in the team's next game.
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