It was June of 2013 when Brad Evans scored a goal he will never forget. The U.S. National Team was tied 1-1 with Jamaica in second-half stoppage time, and Evans received the ball inside the box.
With his back to the goal, Evans turned and fired a shot into the far upper corner to give the USA a crucial victory in FIFA World Cup qualifying. After the ball hit the back of the net, Evans sprinted towards the sideline and pulled his jersey over his head before being mobbed by teammates.
“That’s one of my fondest memories in a U.S. shirt,” the Sounders FC captain told USsoccer.com this week. “It was a great result and a great night, one that I will remember always.”
On Wednesday, Evans will face the team he devastated with that stoppage-time winner just two years ago. Evans, Clint Dempsey and the USMNT meet Jamaica in a 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (3:00 p.m. PT / FOX Sports 1) with a chance to advance to their sixth straight Gold Cup final.
The USA is coming off a 6-0 victory over Cuba in which Dempsey netted his first international hat trick. Not only did the win help the Americans gain momentum, but it was also a reassuring outcome for a team that wasn’t necessarily satisfied with its performance in the group stage.
“I think we can be honest with ourselves and say the first three games weren’t up to par,” Evans said. “Whether that was the weather, heavy legs or the quick turnaround, we’ve got to take a step back and see what we can do better. It’s always good in the knockout round to get a good result and start banging goals away, because that’s all about confidence and rhythm.”
Speaking of goals, Dempsey is currently the leader for the tournament’s Golden Boot, having scored six times in four games. His half-dozen goals are the most ever by an American player in a single Gold Cup. Thanks to his hat trick on Saturday – just the fourth in USMNT Gold Cup history – Dempsey moved within 10 goals of Landon Donovan’s all-time record of 57.
“It felt good,” Dempsey said of the Cuba game. “My teammates were giving me good service and putting me in position to get good looks in front of the goal, and I was able to put them on target.”
“What we like from him in the last couple of weeks is his energy – his energy to constantly stay in the game,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “He’s not switching off at all. He’s hungry for goals.”
Wednesday’s semifinal could present a challenging task for Dempsey, as Jamaica hasn’t given up a goal in its last three games. Currently at 76th in the FIFA World Rankings, the Caribbean nation went 2-0-1 to win Group B and then defeated Haiti 1-0 in its quarterfinal matchup.
“We know the game’s going to be more difficult [than the Cuba match],” Dempsey said. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re sharp and doing everything we can to try to win this tournament.”