United States Soccer: 10 Greatest Moments in U.S. Soccer in the Past 10 Years

James WalkerAnalyst ISeptember 9, 2011

United States Soccer: 10 Greatest Moments in U.S. Soccer in the Past 10 Years

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    It isn't a secret that Americans tend to not care about soccer.

    They know it exists and they know that it's the biggest sport in the world but, all too often, that's where the interest stops.

    Despite the country's apathy when it comes to beautiful game, their national team has enjoyed considerable success in both the Men's and Women's form of the sport.

    The US women have won Gold at the past two Olympic Games and have won a record number of FIFA World Cup championships alongside Germany.

    The Men's game is far more competitive but, all the same, the Yanks have established themselves as a credible team capable of going head to head against the world's finest footballing talent.

    Indeed, the United States Men climbed as high as 4th in the world rankings in April 2006 but, bizarrely at present day they occupy 28th position.

    In the past decade there have been great moments in U.S soccer. This slideshow will celebrate the best of those 10.

Portugal 2-3 USA

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    Location: Suwon World Cup Stadium, Suwon, South Korea

    June 5th 2002

    Group D Match at the FIFA World Cup:

    Portugal started with Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Sergio Conceicao in their team but such superstars were powerless to prevent the USA finding themselves in the unprecedented position of being up 3-0  after 36 minutes of play.

    At the time, Portugal were a powerhouse in international football, the USA was a competent squad of hard working professionals.

    Goals from John O’Brien and Brian McBride, accompanied by a wicked own goal by Jorge Costa, contributed towards the United States' cause. The Portuguese defender can feel particularly aggrieved for his own goal, the centre back found himself on the receiving end of a Landon Donovan strike, after being dispossessed by the young midfielder.

    Donovan looked embarrassed to score such an easy goal.

    Portuguese player Beto pulled one back for Portugal in the 38th minute but a resilient U.S defence proved itself to be difficult for the Europeans to break down, despite their attacking menace.

    The Portuguese were not aided by a shaky performance from goalkeeper Victor Baia, who did everything but reassure his team that he was competent between the posts.

    Jeff Agoos repaid Jorge Costa for the misfortune the Portuguese defender suffered in the first half by slicing a Pauleta cross behind Brad Friedel in the 71st minute, but the Americans held on to secure qualification from Group D, at the shocking expense of Portugal.

Mexico 0: 2 USA

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    Jeonju Stadium, Jeonju, South Korea

    June 17th 2002

    Round of 16 match at the FIFA World Cup

    Of the 55 times these two nations have met, this is by far the most meaningful contest.

    Mexico, a country whose enthusiasm for football baffles their northern neighbours, was humbled by a brutally efficient U.S. team under manager Bruce Arena.

    El Tricolor emerged as unbeaten victors of their group after wins against Croatia and Ecuador accompanied by a draw against the Italian team. Such fine form was unable to prevent them from conceding after just eight minutes.

    Brian McBride scored the opener, and remained anonymous for much of the rest of the match. Mexico’s persistent drive into the American half meant the striker spent much of the time hovering on the half way line, waiting for a clearance to find its way to his feet.

    Despite the Mexicans persistence, they were unable to find the back of Brad Friedel’s net and the USA made them pay for their squandered opportunities.

    A quick break from the Yanks resulted in Eddie Lewis whipping in a teasing cross from out left, teeing up an effortless header for a 20-year-old Landon Donovan, who calmly guided the ball into the net.

    Mexico’s frustrations were personified by a reckless tackle on Coby Jones by Rafael Marquez. The centre back was given a straight red card for his dangerous challenge on the 88 minute mark.

    It was the first time that the USA reached the Quarter Final stage of the FIFA World Cup since the tournament’s inauguration in 1930.

Spain 0-2 USA

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    The Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa

    June 24th 2009

    Semi Final of the 2009 Confederations Cup

    When the USSF coined Project 2010 in 1998, their ambition seemed to be breaking into the world of fairy tale.

    America had the chance to turn into a footballing nation by hosting the 1994 World Cup, a tournament that caused more embarrassment for the U.S. on an international level than it did spread intrigue in the game.

    If the World Cup could not boost the game in the United States, how could this initiative be successful?

    Project 2010 wanted to establish America as a leading team in world football by 2010, their triumph over European Champions Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup was mission complete for the USSF.

    The USA was in the final of a major international tournament, beating the world’s best team in the process.

    Jozy Altidore gave the Yanks the lead in the 27th minute by firing in a long range shot. The Villareal striker managed to wriggle past his club teammate Joan Capdevilla and fire the ball agonisingly out of Iker Casillas’ range.

    Spain responded with a barrage of attacking football but grew frustrated by a solid performance by Tim Howard between the posts. The Spaniards grew frustrated and started to shoot from range-all to no avail.

    Clint Dempsey added to the Spain’s misery by clinching the winner in the 74th minute, after quickly reacting to a failed Sergio Ramos clearance.

    The USA went on to lose 3 - 2 against Brazil in the final.

    America’s victory is all the more shocking given that it ended Spain’s 35 game unbeaten run.

England 1 -1 USA

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    Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenberg, South Africa

    June 12th 2010

    Group C match at the FIFA World Cup  

    It was supposed to be an easy win for England, the Three Lions were regarded by many as one of leading teams in world football.

    The matchup could not have been more different, England had a squad of established Premier League professionals and some of the world’s most highly regarded footballers.

    The USA had Clinton Dempsey and Landon Donovan, two very talented players, who despite their talent, they would not have made their opponents starting squad.

    Steven Gerrard gave England the perfect start, scoring four minutes into the match. England did look like an ominous attacking threat, but were unable to convert opportunities into goals.

    A goalkeeping nightmare from Rob Green resulted in a long range Clinton Dempsey strike turning into a gift of a goal.

    The two teams went into half time with the scores level, and a lacklustre performance in the second half made it all too easy for the U.S. to defend the result.

Slovenia 2-2 USA

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    Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg. South Africa

    18th June 2010

    World Cup 2010

    Prior to the start of the tournament, the Eastern Europeans were seen as America’s number one threat in Group C.

    It was widely expected that England would win all three of their group matches, leaving the other three teams to scrap for second position.

    Although predictions about England’s dominance did not rein true, the match against Slovenia was equally as decisive as the pre-tournament predictions foresaw.

    At half time, the USA trailed Slovenia 2-0 thanks to goals by Valter Birsa and Zlatan Ljubijankic.

    Landan Donovan revitalised the U.S cause three minutes into the second half, however a series of officiating mistakes prevented the Yanks from building upon their rhythm.

    When all hope seemed lost, Michael Bradley poked the ball over the Slovenian keeper in the 82nd minute to level the tie.

    Defeat in the contest would have eliminated the United States from the competition at the earliest possible stage. Grit and determination saw theme persevere and progress as group winners.

USA 2 – 1 Brazil (Women’s Football)

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    Karaiskaki Stadium, Pireaus, Greece

    August 26th 2004

    Olympic Games Final 

    In what was the final game time that the coveted combination of Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Kristine Lilly and Brandi Chastain played together in a competitive game, but the U.S. ladies bowed out in style.

    After a shocking defeat to Norway in the 2000 final, the ladies had a point to prove against a Brazilian team oozing with attacking flair.

    A 19-year-old Lindsay Tarpley scored the opener after 39 minutes, putting the Yanks in pole position ahead at half time. However, a resilient Brazil side levelled the score in the 73rd minute, Pretinha pinching the goal.

    Pretinha’s goal forced the game into extra time where rising star Abby Wambach scored a decisive header in the 112th minute.

USA 1 – 0 Brazil (Women’s Football)

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    Worker’s Stadium, Beijing, China

    21st August 2008

    Olympic Games Final 

    In a re run of the 2004 Olympic Final, the United States once again faced a potent Brazil team for the Gold Medal.

    The match was cagey, both teams were wary of their opponents attacking flair and were reluctant to take too many risks.

    A dull 0-0 contest forced the game to plunge into extra time. After six minutes, Carli Lloyd ended the USA’s frustration. The then 26-year-old picked up on Amy Rodriguez’s back heal to one touch the ball into the back of the net.

    Interestingly, the Gold Medal won by the soccer team was the USA’s 1000th Olympic Gold Medal.

Japan 2 – 2 USA (Japan Won 3 – 1 on Penalties.)

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    Commerzbank- Arena, Frankfurt, Germany

    17th July 2011

    Final of the Women’s FIFA World Cup

    Losing is not a great feeling, but surprisingly it is this defeat that has catalysed an American interest in the sport more so than any of the other events in this slideshow.

    The U.S. women had finished in third place in the previous two world cups, and tournament predictions suggested that achieving this feat would be far more of a challenge than it had been in previous competitions.

    Despite the difficult path that was laid before them the U.S. made it to the final of the World Cup, beating Brazil and France along the way.

    Unfortunately, the Japanese proved themselves to be a bridge too far, but the women came tantalisingly close.

    Were it not for an 81st minute equaliser by AyaMiyama the U.S. would have won in regulation time. The Yanks however were well acquainted to winning decisive matches in extra time and an Abby Wambach's goal at the 104th minute mark looked like it would be enough to clinch victory for the Stars and Stripes.

    Unfortunately Japan put on a fine display of resilience which led to Homare Sawa scoring an equaliser with three minutes to go.

    In the lottery of the penalty shootout, Japan held their nerve and went on to defeat America 3 -1. Despite loosing, the determination and grit displayed by the women earned them much respect across the country.

David Beckham Signs for La Galaxy

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    Transfer from Real Madrid

    January 11th 2007

    The MLS is a weak league and the NASL was even weaker.

    In the past the likes of Pele and Franz Beckenbauer have graced the USA’s domestic season, but have been unable to truly enhance the image of football in North America.

    David Beckham’s arrival in Los Angeles from the Bernabeu catalysed a new wave of interest in American domestic football. Although Galaxy fans may (for completely illegitimate reasons) criticise his loyalty, the former England captain has improved the reputation of the game.

    Prior to his departure to LA, no one outside of the USA had heard of the MLS. Today, all self-respecting football fans have.

USA 2 – 1 Mexico

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    Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois

    24th June 2007

    CONCACAF Gold Cup Final

    The Gold Cup is not a strong competition, it is dwarfed by the European Championships, Copa America and the African Cup of Nations in both quality and reputation.

    Be that as it may, there are two teams that love to loathe one another.

    The two teams first played against one another in 1934, this match was the 53rd time that the two nations played one another. Never before in the history of the game had the USA defeated Mexico after conceding the first goal.

    Landan Donovan’s converted penalty in the 62nd minute wiped out the one goal advantage that Mexico took into half time following a goal from Andres Guardado.

    Since then a youthful Mexican team looked nervous. The U.S., smelling blood, capitalised.

    The Yanks were rewarded for their offensive play just 11 minutes later by virtue of a fine volley from Benny Feilheiber. It was the third consecutive Gold Cup triumph for the Americans.