091013_usmex_game_olson_am2e0625 Jeremy Olson for American Soccer Now
Keys to victory

Eddie Johnson Opener Shifted Momentum for U.S.

It took almost 50 minutes, but the United States national team broke through against Mexico thanks to the Seattle Sounders forward. His tally broke the spirit of El Tri and led to the win.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
September 11, 2013
5:02 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Columbus Crew Stadium birthed yet another dos a cero result, but it wasn't the dos that seemed to bother Mexico's caretaker manager, Luis Fernando Tena. It was el primero.

Tena, in all likelihood making his only managerial appearance for Mexico, repeated multiple times that the game's first goal gave the United States all the momentum and the ability to control the match. After the first goal, Jurgen Klinsmann was able to shift his tactics, allowing the U.S. to boss the match defensively and hit El Tri often in the counterattack.

"It is a psychological game at the end of the day," Klinsmann said of the difficulty for his opponents to keep their heads up in Crew Stadium. "I think you could feel it in the body language of the Mexican players once they didn't get a goal that they tried really hard for the first 20, 25 minutes they got heavier and heavier, and you could see that psychological load in their minds that you know they start to doubt themselves."

The goal, a 49th minute header from Eddie Johnson mirrored a bit of action from the first half. Just after half an hour of play the U.S. won a corner when Jermaine Jones set Fabian Johnson free down the right side. Landon Donovan took the set piece and Johnson came from the top of the box, rose, and hit the ball. In the first half, Mexican keeper Jesus Corona was on his line to stop the shot. In the second, he was out flailing at the ball while one of his center backs was getting beat. By the time he realized what had happened, Eddie Johnson was off celebrating. "I saw the opportunity to get inside my man," the goalscorer said. "I think Clint made good run to the near post, Clarence kinda took his guy away and Landon put the ball in a spot for us to attack it. We've got some great height in the box and this time I wanted to make sure I kept it down and on frame. I'm very fortunate that it went in."

That brought about a full shift in momentum that had been trending the Americans' way since that earlier chance. While the U.S. had planned to start better than they did in Costa Rica, a laudable goal but one they were hardly able to complete, their confidence grew as the match progressed.

The Seattle Sounders attacker wasn't getting involved much early but said he wasn't getting frustrated by not getting the ball at his feet, instead heeding tactical instructions to play in the 18-yard box.

"We knew in the first 15 minutes it was gonna be fast, it was gonna be ugly and the game eventually dies down and you pick your moments," Eddie Johnson said.

He also got a bit of encouragement from Klinsmann during the break.

"I told him at halftime, I said, 'You've got to get another one. You've gotta just stay hungry for it and wait for it. You're going to get that opportunity,'" the manager said.

Opportunities have been coming often for Eddie Johnson, with four goals in his previous six national team matches and three of his last four league matches. With a Jozy Altidore missing because of a hamstring injury and a subsequent yellow card suspension, Johnson could provide a remedy to any Altidore over-reliance. Making the momentum-changing first cut against Mexico will continue to solidify what looks to be a certain invitation to Brazil.

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