If the U.S. men’s national team qualifies for the 2014 World Cup, it will have to credit Sounders FC with an assist.
The Seattle duo of Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson has already produced some of the more memorable moments in qualifying, and both look to be contributors for the U.S. going forward. In fact, both could be starting in Tuesday’s home game against Panama at CenturyLink Field.
Evans has been making a strong case to be the team’s starting right back the past week, highlighted by a dramatic game-winning goal in stoppage time Friday in Jamaica.
Johnson has been proving his worth since last year, most notably in October when he scored both goals in a 2-1 win at Antigua & Barbuda, and four days later added a vital assist to beat Guatemala.
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“It’s good to know that the U.S.’s road to Brazil has a few Sounder goals littered along the way,” said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, proudly.
Evans, after being mostly on the national-team periphery, has been a recent revelation filling in for regular right backs Steve Cherundolo (resting after a knee injury kept him out December-April) and Timmy Chandler (tore a left knee ligament in early May).
Evans also stood out in last week’s 4-3 exhibition win against world power Germany.
“He took that opportunity,” said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “We spoke before camp about it. I spoke a couple times at length with Sigi here, and we felt it’s the right moment for him to get that opportunity — and he took it. We’re very pleased and looking forward to Tuesday night to another one.”
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard added of Evans: “It’s exciting to see his progression.”
Evans has kept himself from looking too far down the road, like possibly making next year’s World Cup squad, but he admitted he has thought about starting Tuesday in front of his home MLS crowd.
“I think it will be extremely special, and not many players get to experience something like this,” he said. “It will always be something I remember.”
Johnson could also start Tuesday, particularly as the U.S. faces a number of personnel issues coming out Friday’s qualifier in Jamaica.
Midfielder Graham Zusi received his second yellow card of qualifying in the game and will be suspended against Panama. Fellow midfielder Jermaine Jones suffered a concussion in the second half and said on Twitter that he won’t be available.
• Sounders FC defender DeAndre Yedlin left Sunday to join the U.S. U-20 squad for the FIFA U-20 World Cup later this month in Turkey. “It’s a bunch of mixed feelings — overwhelmed, excited — but I think it will be a good experience,” he said.
• Johnson threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Sunday’s Mariners game, as U.S. teammates Clint Dempsey and Howard accompanied him.