Yes, the list of choices is on the short side, but there have been a scattering truly outstanding team performances for the United States in past World Cups. Here are the top five:
The overall quality and outcome was underwhelming four years ago in Germany to be sure. But there was one memorable night, at least, a nine-man stand in Kaiserslautern that was nothing less than heroic.
Images of a bloody
Things were moving in the right direction against Italy until striker
It all went wrong when
From there, the Americans' gut-busting effort became the story.
Colombia was a dark horse favorite to win it all in 1994. The Americans, meanwhile, were seen as lightweights, probably undeserving of the automatic berth they received as hosts. So imagine the shock when the kids from America, many attached to minor league sides in a day before MLS existed, punctured the world order with a stunning 2-1 upset that evening in the Rose Bowl.
How did it happen? The plan arranged by Serbian tactician
Valderrama and Co. were stuck, rebuffed repeatedly by physical center backs
Most of America was still asleep when midfielder
So little had been expected of Arena's side in Asia considering the France fiasco of 1998; the Americans lost all three matches, scored just once and placed dead last among the field of 32. But Japan-Korea 2002 began unfolding as the Tournament of the Underdog, thanks in part to the American effort against the fancied Portugal.
And this was no fluke. Up-and-comers like Donovan and
Surely, Portugal would attack the second-half with a vengeance, especially after drawing one back before the break? But that never happened, as a well-organized U.S. defense acquiesced lots of possession but limited the truly dangerous chances in the eventual 3-2 victory.
A book has been written and a movie produced about this absurdly improbable moment. A team of amateurs was given no hope of matching England, the very inventors of the game and a 3-to-1 favorite to lift the trophy in the end.
But the scrappy part-timers turned the World Cup upside down that night with the 1-0 win in the Brazilian mining town of Belo Horizonte. It ranks in tournament lore right alongside North Korea's stunning 1966 win over Italy as the unlikeliest of upsets.
A result that shocked the world created barely a ripple here. The game did nothing to hasten soccer's slow march up the domestic sports totem poll, and the Americans wouldn't land in another World Cup for 40 years. Ironically, only decades later did Gaetjens and the events in Belo Horizonte reach a sort of iconic status; as soccer gained in popularity here, the legend grew.
The Americans' 2-0 win on June 17, 2002 in Jeonju looms large in reshaping the nations' bitter border rivalry. It was historic for the United States but absolutely devastating for El Tri, which could no longer claim supremacy over its formerly weaker neighbor.
The nations had met many times before but never in a match of such importance, in the elimination phase of a World Cup. President
This was the neighbors' first World Cup meeting; a spot in the quarterfinals was at stake. Mexico bossed much of the first half, but El Tri still wasn't 100 percent in control. McBride supplied an early lead by capping a precision counter attack, one initiated on
In a tactical stunner, Reyna had lined up on the right in a 3-5-2, a move which seemed to flummox the Mexicans. After the break, it was
Reyna was brilliant all afternoon. Goalkeeper
Mexican players stormed off the field in a maddened huff of frustration and disbelief. The Americans, meanwhile, began focusing on a quarterfinal date with Germany. "It's a great day for U.S. Soccer," Arena said afterward.