We are still 10 months away from the opening of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the U.S. National Team is still on the brink of becoming the first team from the CONCACAF region to qualify for the World Cup.
And while just a friendly, the 4-3 victory for the U.S. last week over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo was another great step along the way for Sounders FC’s Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson, as well as the National Team as a whole, as they continued their 12-match winning streak.
“You’ve seen the strides that the team has made over the past two or three years and being able to play on European soil and get results. Those are all things that you put in the back of your mind as the team moves forward,” Evans said. “We can get results away from home in difficult places to play in difficult conditions against good teams. Hopefully that gives you confidence going forward.”
Evans also noted two key road results for the U.S. in 2012 – a 1-0 win over Italy in Genoa in a February friendly and a 2-2 draw with Russia in Krasnodar in November. While Johnson and Evans weren’t part of those matches, the momentum from those matches has certainly carried over throughout the squad.
Now knowing that they can go to places in and out of CONCACAF and get results, regardless of the available roster and the conditions of the match, has created an even more competitive camp as players are fighting for their place in the World Cup squad.
“The team right now is just playing with a lot of confidence. The World Cup is a year from now and everyone in that pool wants to be on that team,” Johnson said. “We’re competing and pushing each other in every camp to get better as a team, but also to make that roster.”
Evans started and played 87 minutes at right back while Johnson played 63 minutes as a second forward with Jozy Altidore. Johnson scored the first goal to start the U.S. on the comeback trail from 2-0 down at halftime to the 4-3 victory. Altidore was the star of the match, though, as he finished with a hat trick.
“It was a great team effort, but it was a great performance by Jozy Altidore,” Johnson said.
Now with both players back in Seattle with Sounders FC, they turn their focus to their next big conquest, Sunday’s match against the Portland Timbers in front of a crowd of over 66,500 at CenturyLink Field.
For Evans, there was first a stop in Houston, where he came on late in the match against the Dynamo on Saturday in a 3-1 loss for Seattle. Johnson, meanwhile, served a suspension for yellow card accumulation and rejoined the full team at training on Tuesday.
With four more World Cup qualifying matches on the calendar in September and October, Johnson and Evans – as well as Clint Dempsey - are likely to miss more time with Sounders FC in the final two months of the regular season.
“That puts more emphasis on myself when I am here – putting forth a full effort and doing whatever I can to help this team win. I just want to win games,” Evans said. “We’ve done extremely well when guys have been absent. There have been a number of times when we’ve had some absences, but guys have stepped in and filled in. I have full confidence in these guys, but personally, you want to put in full effort when you’re here.”