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The United States looked dreadful on Friday and did not deserve to win, but a pair of goals by Eddie Johnson saved them.
The United States did what they needed to do, kind of. They went to Antigua and Barbuda knowing that so long as they won, things would be alright, but even they couldn't imagine a scenario in which they would play as poorly as they did. Luckily for them, Eddie Johnson was there to save them. He scored two goals, the second in stoppage time, to hand the U.S. a 2-1 win they did not deserve in the slightest.
With the win, the U.S. is now leading Group A with 10 points. They will advance to the final round of qualifying with a win or draw against Guatemala on Tuesday, but that won't ease the concern of most American fans because the reality is that this team is in trouble.
After an uninspiring opening, the U.S. broke through when Eddie Johnson headed home a Graham Zusi cross. Johnson was able to lose his mark when a corner kick was cleared, but it wasn't cleared very far so Zusi was able to get the ball and play in a cross not long after that found the unmarked Johnson.
That goal should have opened up the match up for the U.S. Getting the first goal against the defensive-minded Benna Boys was always going to be a chore, but once they did the goals would then pour in and the Americans would cruise to victory. At least that is what was supposed to happen.
Instead, the U.S. just got worse after scoring and Antigua and Barbuda equalized not long after. Peter Byers flew down the right and left a flat-footed defense in his wake before crossing for Dexter Blackstock, who had lost his mark and had a simple tap-in to get things level.
The U.S. never got back on the front foot. They had their occasional chances and did hit the bar, but most of their forays forward ended in bad give aways or overly ambitious, even downright stupid passes.
Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda found a groove. They had no problem keeping the U.S. at bay and for much of the second half were the better team. Twice the Benna Boys had shots that just went wide of the post and if any team was going to find a winner, it looked more likely that it would be home side.
Luckily for the U.S. and Jurgen Klinsmann, Johnson came to the rescue once more and he was helped out by none other than Alan Gordon. The Quakes striker drifted out to the right before lifting a cross to the center, where Johnson was waiting to pounce. Once again, he finished well, nodding past Molvin James in the dying minutes to win it for the U.S.
Even with the win, the match was an unmitigated disaster for the U.S. Any excitement he built up early in his tenure and revived with a win over Mexico in August is now gone. Right now, he's skating through on luck. On Friday, he was very luck that they played a bad team, and that Johnson was there to save him.