The Biggest Win in US History? It Just Might Be.
Spain 0, United States 2. The greatest result in the history of US soccer. Okay, it may have started as a bit of enthusiastic overstatement, but when you look at the record book, it just might be true. Let's look at the contenders in chronological order: United States 3-0 Belgium July 13, 1930 1930 World Cup - Group play, Round one Bart McGhee with two goals and Bert Patenaude with a third and the United States won on the opening day of the first World Cup in history. It might be a different era, with a different style of play but fans need to learn there was a soccer history before MLS. The US played the same lineup for all three games in Uruguay, including arguably one of the greatest players to have ever played the game, Billy Gonçalves. United States 3-0 Paraguay July 17, 1930 1930 World Cup - Group play, Round two Patenaude followed up his single tally against Belgium by scoring the first hat trick in World Cup history. This win advanced the US to the semifinals of the first World Cup in history. While the US performance might not receive the recognition it deserves, their wins came against Belgium and Paraguay – nowhere near the caliber of Spain today. England 0-1 United States June 29, 1950 1950 World Cup - Group play, Round two For sheer shock value, this rivals and probably surpasses the Confederations Cup win over Spain, but not by much. The US had been outscored in its last seven internationals 45-2. Many of the US players themselves admitted they were fortunate not to have been blown out by England, who were denied numerous times by the post and goalkeeper Frank Borghi while Joe Gaetjens wrote his name in the history book with the goal. Trinidad & Tobago 0-1 United States World Cup qualifying – Final round, Final game November 19, 1989 The significance of this game cannot be overstated. It validated the US’s return to the world stage after a 40-year absence. Any game that inspires a nickname, like Paul Caligiuri’s “Shot Heard Round the World” has to be important. If this win does not happen, much of the future history might never have been written. However, while the game might have been important, and Trinidad came in as a heavy favorite the Trinbagonians were nowhere near the best team in the world. United States 2-1 Colombia June 22, 1994 1994 World Cup - Group play, Round two Pele picked Colombia to win the tournament. It was the kiss of death. While the US put on a solid display for the win, you have to remember Colombia had already been pounded by Romania in their opening match, 3-1. The match is more remembered for the tragic own goal by Andres Escobar. Only a last minute goal from Adolfo Valencia helped Colombia avoid the shutout. United States 3-0 Argentina July 14, 1995 1995 Copa America - Group play, Round three In my mind, this is one of the top three wins prior to the Spanish victory, probably because I had the good fortune to call it. However, there were significant stretches where the US dominated play against the stunned Argentines and defensively it is one of Kasey Keller’s best outings. The victory is somewhat tempered by the decision of Argentine manager Daniel Passarella to make seven changes to his starting lineup. Still, this is the last time the US Men advanced to the semifinals of a major tournament, outside of CONCACAF. United States 1-0 Brazil February 10, 1998 1998 Gold Cup - Semifinal It was the first win against Brazil in history for the red, white and blue. It was also the second straight game that Preki came off the bench to provide the heroics. Brazil was missing about half its regular starters, and the US defensive performance was weak, saved only by a 10-save performance from Kasey Keller in his Gold Cup debut. Romario said it was the best goalkeeping performance he had ever seen after being stonewalled by the US net minder on at least five world-class saves. United States 3-2 (5) Portugal June 5, 2002 2002 World Cup - Group play, Round one The US got out to a great start against fifth-ranked Portugal, pulling out to a three-goal lead. A second half own goal made the score line appear closer than it was. It was the first win against a European team in a World Cup in US history. It also snapped a skid of five straight losses in World Cup play since the win against Colombia back in 1994. While the World Cup is obviously more important than the Confederations Cup, an opening game is where favorites are more vulnerable for the upset, much more so than in a semifinal like the win against Spain. Mexico 0-2 United States June 17, 2002 2002 World Cup - Round of 16 This win propelled the US into the quarterfinals for the first time since 1930. Only bad luck against Germany and a bit of bad officiating ended their quest to return to their first semifinals since the inaugural World Cup. However, it was against Mexico a side the United States has become used to defeating everywhere but Azteca. The stock of the US player has to rise after a performance like this. Whether than can perform consistently still must be proved. This team still is not living up to its potential, which is good news. The wins against Egypt and Spain were not flukes and that this team can get even better. The potential of this US side was not a mirage, it was just in hibernation. The propensity for receiving red cards is a concern that must be addressed. However, the backline was outstanding individually and as a unit. They need to work on their clearances, but when it comes to the job of keeping opposing offenses at bay, they were brilliant. In addition, the offense put itself in position to score two or three more goals. Next year, in the real world championship in South Africa they cannot afford to be so lenient. Where would you put today’s result? For me, it is a top three performance, perhaps trailing only 1950 for shock value and 1989 for significance.