The United States was faced with an unfamiliar position on Tuesday -- a must-win match. World Cup qualifying doesn't usually present them with such a tough test and certainly not this early in the process. But there the U.S. was, hosting Jamaica in front of a partisan crowd. Despite more than 70% of the possession and all of the chances, they were still held scoreless in the second half.
Panic was starting to set in when Clint Dempsey was fouled and Herculez Gomez stepped to a free kick 28 yards from goal. He hit it up over the Jamaican wall, dipped it down underneath the bar and curled it inside the post. Dwayne Miller got a hand to it and should have saved it, but he didn't and the goal counted just like any other.
In fact, Gomez's goal may have counted more than any other. It was the only goal in a match that his team needed to avoid catastrophe.
But Gomez's goal wasn't his only contribution on the evening. In fact, he could have had an assist for the gorgeous free kick he hit in the first half, but Jermaine Jones couldn't get on the end of his beautiful ball. Gomez also had a good penalty shout in the early minutes when he was dragged down in the box and gave the Jamaicans a preview of what was to come for the rest of the evening.
In between scoring a goal, nearly picking up an assist and making the referee think about pointing to the spot, Gomez worked tirelessly up front. It wasn't too long ago that most doubted that he could play as a lone striker, but there was was by himself up top again and thriving. His movement caused problems for the Reggae Boyz defense and his constant pushing of the back line drove them back to create space for the American midfielders in the attacking half.
All in all, it was a well-rounded performance from Gomez. He did everything that Klinsmann could have asked from him, including notching the goal that rescued the Americans' qualifying campaign. That right there is Man of the Match material.
Danny Williams- After the nightmare in Kingston, the U.S. midfield needed to step it up and on Tuesday they did. It was largely due to the play of Williams, who didn't just win the ball from his holding role, but his small movements made him available to teammates in trouble and his quick passing did wonders to open up the Jamaican defense.
Steve Cherundolo- The 33-year-old has some serious Old Man Game. He was never the biggest, nor the strongest, nor the fastest, but he knows every trick in the book and uses them all. Tuesday was the ultimate example of that as the U.S. left him on an island repeatedly. Every single time, he was up to the task while also showing enough legs to get forward and create the width that the Americans so badly needed.