Former Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake forward Yura Movsisyan is a hero in Armenia after scoring an 87th-minute game winner that kept his country in contention for a spot in the 2014 World Cup.
Armenia needed a victory in Yerevan over second-place Bulgaria to remain alive in UEFA’s Group B, where four-time world champion Italy is setting the pace.
Spartak Moscow’s Aras Özbiliz lifted the hosts into the lead in first half stoppage time shortly after a red card reduced Bulgaria to 10 men. The shorthanded visitors equalized in the 61st, but a second ejection opened the door for Armenia just two minutes later.
Movsisyan barged through, running onto a pass into the Bulgarian penalty area and deftly chipping goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov. It was Movsisyan’s third goal of Armenia’s qualifying campaign.
The 26-year-old, who spent five seasons in MLS, now plays for Spartak Moscow. Born in Azerbaijan to Armenian parents, he moved with his family to Southern California as a child, and in 2006 Kansas city drafted him out of Pasadena City College. Movsisyan tallied 21 goals in two seasons with KC and three seasons with RSL and ended his MLS career with a title. He started and played 75 minutes in RSL’s 2009 championship victory over the L.A. Galaxy and played a role in the second-half goal by Robbie Findley that sent the match into extra time.
He debuted with the Armenian national team the following year while playing with Danish club Randers.
Now there’s a slim chance he’ll play at the World Cup next year. At 4-5-0, Armenia trails both Bulgaria (3-2-4) and Denmark (3-2-4) by a point with one game remaining. The Czech Republic (3-3-3) remains alive as well.
Armenia will finish up group play on Tuesday, when it will meet Italy in Naples.
The second-place finisher (Italy already is through) will have a shot at one of the four two-team playoffs UEFA will conduct next month. Armenia's path is the most difficult of the lot and there's still a chance Group B's second-place squad will be the worst of the nine runners-up and miss out on the playoff.
But for a few more days, at least, Armenia can continue to dream. GALLERY: Countries who have punched their tickets to Brazil 2014