NORTH SOUND, Antigua - Eddie Johnson scored twice in his first game in nearly two years with the United States, the last in second-half injury time, to give the Americans a 2-1 win over Antigua & Barbuda on Friday and put them on the brink of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
Johnson headed in second-half substitute Alan Gordon's cross, running in at the back post to nod it in from the six, giving the United States 10 points atop Group A. The Americans will only need a draw from Tuesday's match against Guatemala in Kansas City, Kansas, to advance.
The loss eliminated Antigua & Barbuda with its eighth loss in its last 10 matches and was only the fourth game in which the United States has scored two goals or more in the 19 matches under manager Juergen Klinsmann.Antigua appeared on the verge of one of the biggest upsets of qualifying, defending with 11 men as the United States put on a late push.
Johnson, who is tied with San Jose's Alan Gordon for fifth most goals in Major League Soccer this season with 14 goals, worked his way between two defenders and headed a right-wing cross from Gordon for his 14th international goal.
Molvin made several vital stops to keep Antigua tied, including tipping a Michael Bradley header from a corner kick onto the crossbar in the 86th minute.
The Americans controlled the early part of the match and it paid off in the 20th minute. Graham Zusi's corner kick was returned to the Sporting Kansas City midfielder on the right side. He played a ball into Bradley, who quickly returned it and Zusi curled a left-footed ball to the back post, were Johnson ran in and the ball past James from seven meters.
The goal seemed to spark the Benna Boys, who pushed forward and took advantage of a weak left side of the U.S. defense.
Peter Byers beat defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Geoff Cameron on the right flank, worked to the byline before crossing the ball in front. U.S. central defender Clarence Goodson appeared to get shoved from behind by Dexter Blackstock and fell, leaving Blackstock unmarked to volley the low ball at the right post past goalkeeper Tim Howard.
It was the Nottingham Forest striker's first international goal and only Antigua's third of the semifinal round.
The goal gave Antigua more confidence as it battled the United States evenly for the remainder of the half.
The Americans had relatively few shots, but its best came in the 40th minute when a combination effort left Bradley with space at the edge of the restraining arc, and the Roma midfielder - who missed September's qualifiers because of injury - skimmed a right-footed try off the outside of the right post.
The narrow field at Sir Viv Richards cricket ground was made even more of a challenge for both sides due to afternoon rain that intensified several times during the game.
Second-half substitute Jermaine Jones, who replaced U.S. midfielder Danny Williams in the 56th minute, was issued a yellow card for a hand ball only six minutes after entering the game. That infraction means Jones will miss Tuesday's encounter because of accumulated yellows.
Tamorley Thomas came close to giving Antigua the lead in the 71st minute when he turned and quickly launched a 25-meter shot just wide right of the U.S. net.