Jurgen Klinsmann has been under a lot of heat for the mediocre performance of his American team. Games that shouldn't be difficult have turned into long hard-fought battles where every second of the 90 minutes proves to be vital.
The World Cup Qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda wasn't supposed to take extra time to secure a USA victory, but it did. But it wasn't the regular group of Americans that have rescued the stars and stripes time and time again.
Landon Donovan wasn't dressed, so there was no magic from No. 10. It wasn't Clint Dempsey, the EPL star who has been clutch for the red, white and blue. It wasn't Michael Bradley, the Series A player who has been trained his whole life for moments like this. Heck, it wasn't even Herculez Gomez, who has played great as of late.
When the USA had its back against the wall with a matter of mere seconds remaining, it was the Major League Soccer players who made the difference.
In fact, every goal and assist came from an MLS player. Eddie Johnson resurrected his international career with two goals, including the stoppage-time clincher. His two year hiatus has allowed him to come back better prepared to succeed.
The first goal started with Graham Zusi. The Sporting Kansas City player sent in a corner, which eventually went to the foot of Bradley, who laid it back off to Zusi. With one touch, Zusi sent in a perfectly floated ball into the box and the Seattle Sounders star deflected the ball into the back of the net.
In the 90th minute, it was San Jose Earthquakes star Alan Gordon who made the most of his first cap. Gordon sent in a cross to the back post and a composed Johnson was able to place the ball to the opposite side of the net.
A game that the Americans so badly needed was starting to fall out of grasp, but the MLS players proved to be the difference. The American league is growing in quality and it showed last night.
Sure, Antigua and Barbuda is no Spain or England, but three points is three points and American-groomed players were the difference. It wasn't any of the Americans that play in foreign countries, which there is nothing wrong with. But to see somebody other than Donovan translate MLS success onto the international level was a joy to see.
Rather than continue to search for American talent abroad, Klinsmann might ought to look right in his own backyard. The MLS players have showed the difference they can make on the national team. And with a quickly growing league, the pool of talented players has never been greater.
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