SEATTLE - When the United States first released its roster for a stretch of three World Cup qualifying matches in less than two weeks, Brad Evans' name was absent.
Five days passed before U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to add Evans for additional depth along the defensive backline, a move that now looks like a stroke of genius.
Evans went from being left out to being the reason the United States got out of Jamaica last Friday night with three critical points after he scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time of a 2-1 victory.
"It's an opportunity. I think I've been telling myself that each game brings a new opportunity and it's up to me to stake my claim," Evans said. "I've done a decent job the last two games and obviously I can do better."
Starting a stretch of three qualifiers in 12 days, the United States (2-1-1) improved to seven points in the 10-game final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, trailing Costa Rica (2-1-1) on goal difference and ahead of Mexico (1-0-4) on goals scored.
The United States gets its chance to take hold of the qualifying group with two straight home matches beginning Tuesday night in Seattle against Panama on Evans' home field in Major League Soccer. The Americans then face Honduras in Sandy, Utah, on June 18.
Before he scored the winner, Evans was having another solid performance starting at right back, following up on a strong showing in a friendly against Germany just a few days earlier. But the goal is what everyone will remember from that night in Kingston.
Evans had his back to the goal with Jermaine Beckford, O'Brian Woodbine and Daniel Gordon about 5 yards from him when he stopped a pass from Michael Bradley with his left foot. He then turned and kicked the ball with his right foot over goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts from about 8 yards, a shot that may have taken a slight deflection off the sliding Woodbine.
"I'm really happy to see a fellow teammate out there reaping the benefits of all his hard work that he's put in," United States forward and Seattle Sounders teammate Eddie Johnson said.
Evans' opportunity came because of injuries to Timmy Chandler and Steve Cherundolo, who were both bypassed for the qualifiers. Geoff Cameron got the start against Belgium in late May, but Evans started a few days later against Germany. His performance against the Germans impressed Klinsmann enough to give Evans the start against Jamaica, his first start in a World Cup qualifier.