KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Alan Gordon knows Juergen Klinsmann was taking a chance when the U.S. national team coach called him up last week for a pair of crucial World Cup qualifiers.
If Klinsmann had made the safe choice and summoned World Cup veteran Jozy Altidore or MLS standout Chris Wondolowski, Gordon’s teammate with the San Jose Earthquakes, no one would have blinked. Instead he raised eyebrows by going with Gordon and Eddie Johnson of the Seattle Sounders, neither of whom had played for the U.S. since 2010.
And while the move was initially greeted with curiosity and criticism, the two players made it look brilliant when Gordon’s cross set up Johnson for the winning goal in a 2-1 win over Antigua & Barbuda on Friday, leaving the U.S. needing only a tie with Guatemala on Tuesday in Kansas City, Kan., to secure a spot in the final round of regional qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“I was glad to kind of prove Juergen right. It was a risk to bring me on,” agreed Gordon, who earned his first international cap at age 30. “For me to contribute in any way was what I was brought in to do. So I’m happy that that worked out.”
Johnson, a Long Beach native and once a third-string forward with the Galaxy, came on in place of Herculez Gomez in the 73rd minute with the scored tied and the U.S. attack languishing.
“I was excited to be put in a position to where the coaches felt confident to put me in to make a difference,” he said. “And that’s all my focus was: to come on and add any kind of spark I could, be dangerous. And I just tried to put a dangerous ball into the box.”
The challenge now, Gordon says, is not to let one play -- even one that may have saved the Americans’ World Cup hopes -- impact the way he plays going forward.
“It’s a great start. [But] I can’t get excited. I can’t get too far ahead of myself,” he said. “Stay in the moment and look to contribute when I can. But I’m definitely grateful and blessed to be given the opportunity and hopefully, going forward, I’ll get more opportunities and take advantage of them again.”