The United States nearly squandered three points in its World Cup qualifying match against Jamaica, only to take them back at the last second.
A minute remained before the U.S. men's national team could leave Kingston with a 1-0 victory over Jamaica, but Jermaine Beckford put the Reggae Boyz on the board during the 89th minute.
SI Soccer's Twitter account reported what it thought was a probable draw and letdown for a U.S. club on the cusp of catapulting to a first-place tie in the Hexagonal standings before surrendering the goal.
88' - GOAL JAMAICA! Wow. The Reggae Boyz tie it up late with a goal from Jermaine Beckford. It's 1-1 in Kingston!— SI Soccer (@si_soccer) June 8, 2013
But not so fast. Just as everyone was grabbing their pitchforks and planning a revolt, Brad Evans emerged as an unlikely hero. Considered by some—including SI's Grant Wahl—as the least probable candidate to find the net, the converted midfielder produced a game-winner in stoppage time. It was Evans' first score as a member of the national team.
Brad Evans of all people has put the US up 2-1 late in The Office. Craziness.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 8, 2013
Just like that, the Americans went from celebrating to panicking to partying over a thrilling victory. Perhaps one that should not have been as difficult to obtain, but one that moves them in the right direction.
The win boosts the U.S.'s point total to seven, which ties the club with Costa Rica and Mexico for the most out of the six teams. It also all but sinks Jamaica's dreams of qualifying for Brazil; the Reggae Boyz are winless through five matches with just two points.
According to ESPN researcher Paul Carr, the victory significantly enhances Team USA's probability of earning a trip to Brazil.
With the win, SPI says #USMNT's odds of qualifying for WC jump to 94.0% (independent of other results tonight).— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 8, 2013
It also helps erase the sore memories of its previous loss to Jamaica last September, which is considered the low point of Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure as head coach. While a draw would not have incited the same slew of negative emotions, giving up two points so late in the game would have delivered a crushing blow to team morale.
They would then be sitting in fourth place, with Honduras trailing by a point. A win, meanwhile, allows us to explore other positives from Friday night's nail-biter.
Will the U.S. qualify for the 2014 World Cup?
Earlier in the match, Jozy Altidore notched a goal in his second-straight match, a relieving occurrence for U.S. soccer fans after previously having failed to score in national play since 2011. Graham Zusi set him up brilliantly with the assist and contributed an all-around performance on both sides of the field.
And for those willing to include the international friendly win over Germany, that makes two victories in a row for the Americans after an unsettling friendly defeat against Belgium.
A lot can change in a matter of minutes. The entire state of the U.S. soccer squad altered twice in less than four minutes, but the end result is all that counts in the standings.