The 10 most significant goals in U.S. soccer history

ThePrideofShiner

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Anyone else following along with this series? It is really, really well done. Sports Illustrated is doing stories on each of the "10 most significant goals in U.S. soccer history" as a buildup to the World Cup.
 
I've only read the first three so far, but man they are really well written.
 
I'm excited to see where Donovan's goal against Algeria slots in. And I can't wait to see what goal will be added to this list this summer.

No. 10: Bert Patenaude's forgotten hat trick in 1930

No. 9: Abby Wambach's miracle goal in the 2011 World Cup against Brazil

No. 8: Benny Feilhaber's game-winner against Mexico in the 2007 Gold Cup final

No. 7: Brian McBride's 2002 World Cup goal vs. Mexico

No. 6: Brandi Chastain's 'redemption goal' vs. Germany in the 1999 World Cup quarters
 
No. 5: Earnie Stewart's goal against Colombia in the 1994 World Cup.
 
No. 4: Michelle Akers' 1991 World Cup winner
 
No. 3: Joe Gaetjen's 1950 goal against England.
 
No. 2: Landon Donovan's 2010 goal against Algeria
 
 

dirtynine

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To hazard a guess:
 
Joe Max Moore vs. Jamaica '01
Caligiuri vs. T&T '89
Brandi Chastain vs. China '99
Donovan vs. Algeria '10
...er, Escobar vs. Colombia '94 
 
Jul 15, 2005
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dirtynine said:
To hazard a guess:
 
Joe Max Moore vs. Jamaica '01
Caligiuri vs. T&T '89
Brandi Chastain vs. China '99
Donovan vs. Algeria '10
...er, Escobar vs. Colombia '94 
Moore vs. Jamaica is an interesting choice, and not one that would immediately spring to mind. Definitely significant, though. First game after the WTC attacks (and took place during the announcement of the start of the war in Afghanistan), and it got us to the World Cup. Good call.

Gaetjens vs. England '50 will be on there, too.

Also, I can't read the article on my phone, but that goal from McBride was set up by an absolutely sublime, criminally underappreciated, one-touch outside-of-the-foot flick from Josh Wolff. As a geek for the technical aspects of the game, I love that goal and wish Wolff got more credit for his role in it.
 
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I'd have to go with Donovan's v. Algeria.
 
That was the goal that had people who never watch soccer start talking about out the blue, the only "where were you then" USA soccer moment IMHO. 
It's the goal that put US Men's Soccer in American pop culture. 
 
That was the disappointing part about 1994; underwhelming social/popular influence. I thought it'd do more. 
 
 
It's a shame that the Women's team doesn't seem to get the credit they deserve; if they did, Abby's would be much higher and the USWNT would have 1-8 or so of these. Then again, you can argue that the MNT goals should be higher since the team has done less, so when they did do something, it's more important.
 
Can't wait till the edit on June 26th: 1) Altidore v. Germany. 
 
Jul 15, 2005
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dirtynine said:
 
Ha!  Of course. That actually might be #1.
Yeah, I guess it's hard to say. On one hand, that goal delivered us a skull-implodingly improbable upset and the best single result in our history of international play. On the other hand, it wasn't even enough to get us out of the group stage in that tournament, and our national team went into a death spiral for about 40 years after that.

It was obviously an incredibly noteworthy goal, but it's hard to put it into context as far as it's significance in the larger arc of US soccer history.
 

DLew On Roids

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Kasey Keller's performance in the 1998 Gold Cup semifinal is mostly what's remembered from that match, but Preki's winning goal might make it.  Beating Brazil in a competitive match was huge.
 
Then again, since we lost the final, it might not be a Top 10 event.
 

OilCanShotTupac

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I'm not sure if you can make a case for it as a top-ten in significance, but my #1 is Donovan against Slovenia in the '10 WC:
 
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_n0YZsqBgI[/youtube]
 
I love the comment on one of the YouTubes: "Donovan says "fuck this noise" and rips it top shelf."
 
USA was down 2-0 at halftime and a loss would have made it very hard to get out of the group.  I was not really a fan and was just watching the game for the hell of it.  Right after the second half began, Donovan pretty much scored this goal by force of will.  I got sucked in, USA got the equalizer, should have won it, got a point, advanced out of the group, and I was a fan for life.
 
Even in the context of the 2010 WC, I think the Algeria goal was bigger, but this is my personal favorite.
 
Jul 15, 2005
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John O'Brien's opener against Portugal in the 2002 WC probably warrants inclusion, too, maybe more so than McBride's against Mexico. 
 
Coming into that World Cup, American soccer fans (both of us) were experiencing this weird mix of optimism and crushing anxiety. On one hand, our team had some really exciting young players (Donovan, Beasley), a guy (Mathis) in the middle of maybe the best 1-year run of performance in the history of US Soccer, a team that we thought was pretty solid overall, and a seemingly manageable draw. On the other hand, we still had a really bad taste in our mouths from the 1998 trainwreck, MLS was struggling mightily and had just folded two teams, and there was a ton of anxiety over the prospect that we'd poop the bed again in 2002 and potentially relegate soccer in the US to hyper-niche status for good. And then despite the decent draw the US had, they were opening against Portugal, who were fielding their best generation of players ever, including Figo, who was arguably the best player in the world at the time.
 
Thank god we had this for comic relief in the weeks leading up to the tournament.
 
Anyway, that goal by O'Brien, four minutes into the first game against Portugal, just totally shattered all that anxiety and rattled the shit out of the Portuguese, (maybe) paving the way for the US to grab another two goals before halftime. The Portuguese got it together in the second half and pulled back to 3-2, but the US held on for the win and rode it into the knockout rounds. So one minute, I was worrying about the death of US Soccer, and the next, I was shooting the shit with my mailman and other random strangers about the USA-Germany quarterfinal. It was pretty surreal, and O'Brien's goal seemed like a huge inflection point in the process.
 

dirtynine

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I love this feeling of anticipation, right before the Cup starts. 2002 might have been the best version of the "whoa-it's-actually-happening" feeling, though. Living in Teale Sq. at the time, the plan was to get up at 4:50 and watch the game at a mutual friends' house around the corner from PJ Ryan's.  I remember snoozing my alarm, then bolting upright in fear that I'd missed the game.  I turned it on, 5', US up 1-0.  I kicked myself for missing the goal, pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming, then took off down the street to watch with the others.  Celebrations and morning Guinness followed. An Irish lady (somebody's wife?) cooked us eggs and I struggled to keep them down after Agoos put his beautiful own-goal past Friedel.  I recall walking back down the block to my house, fairly drunk at 7:30 (though I did go in to work that morning anyway) with a star-spangled hat and an "America: These Colors Don't Run" t-shirt on, shouting at cars who were passing.  Not many people understood why; it still seemed like a little secret club then.  Not so much these days, and all for the better.  
 
I'm reading a lot about how this 2014 edition is the most talented US team of all time.  But I think I'd still pick 2002.  Peak McBride, O'Brien, Reyna, Friedel and Mathis + young Donovan and Beasely + strong role players making great contributions (Lewis, Sanneh, Pope, Wolff).  Maybe it's the haze of memory but I still think of that squad as the best US team of all time. 
 

Mr. Wednesday

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Peak Eddie Pope (which was about where he was in 2002) may have been the best center back ever to play for the U.S. Calling him a strong role player understates his quality, IMO.
 
Jul 15, 2005
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dirtynine said:
I love this feeling of anticipation, right before the Cup starts. 2002 might have been the best version of the "whoa-it's-actually-happening" feeling, though. Living in Teale Sq. at the time, the plan was to get up at 4:50 and watch the game at a mutual friends' house around the corner from PJ Ryan's.  I remember snoozing my alarm, then bolting upright in fear that I'd missed the game.  I turned it on, 5', US up 1-0.  I kicked myself for missing the goal, pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming, then took off down the street to watch with the others.  Celebrations and morning Guinness followed. An Irish lady (somebody's wife?) cooked us eggs and I struggled to keep them down after Agoos put his beautiful own-goal past Friedel.  I recall walking back down the block to my house, fairly drunk at 7:30 (though I did go in to work that morning anyway) with a star-spangled hat and an "America: These Colors Don't Run" t-shirt on, shouting at cars who were passing.  Not many people understood why; it still seemed like a little secret club then.  Not so much these days, and all for the better.  
 
I'm reading a lot about how this 2014 edition is the most talented US team of all time.  But I think I'd still pick 2002.  Peak McBride, O'Brien, Reyna, Friedel and Mathis + young Donovan and Beasely + strong role players making great contributions (Lewis, Sanneh, Pope, Wolff).  Maybe it's the haze of memory but I still think of that squad as the best US team of all time. 
 
God, yeah, the month leading up to the tournament is the best. I wish you could bottle that feeling.
 
And yeah, I think that 2002 team was fantastic. Our current team does have a lot of talent, but they also have some huge holes where the 2002 team didn't. I don't think I realized how good the 2002 team was until after the fact, though. Coming into the tournament, based on his play to that point, I thought McBride was a useless stiff who was going to contribute nothing to the offense. I was pleasantly surprised to have been wrong about that one. Also, Sanneh played way above his head for the duration of the tournament, which was a huge factor.
 

dirtynine

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Mr. Wednesday said:
Peak Eddie Pope (which was about where he was in 2002) may have been the best center back ever to play for the U.S. Calling him a strong role player understates his quality, IMO.
Yeah, completely fair point.  I should have put him in the first group. 
 

Dummy Hoy

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By result, that was certainly the best US team. 12 years later and I'm still pissed about that handball- they outplayed Germany most of that game.
 

koufax32

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Klose scored for GER, right? That always stood out to me as the biggest difference between US soccer and the rest of the world; top flight finishing. We have the best finisher we've ever had in Dempsey but still not a top flight man. When, not if, that happens I think us soccer popularity will take that next big leap.
It's exciting to watch this sleeping giant begin to stir over the course of my 35 years.
 
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koufax32 said:
Klose scored for GER, right? That always stood out to me as the biggest difference between US soccer and the rest of the world; top flight finishing. We have the best finisher we've ever had in Dempsey but still not a top flight man. When, not if, that happens I think us soccer popularity will take that next big leap.
It's exciting to watch this sleeping giant begin to stir over the course of my 35 years.
It was Ballack, but I think that historically, we've had trouble developing forwards who can create their own chances and aren't so heavily reliant on poaching / capitalizing on mistakes (which happen so rarely at the highest levels) or on the ability of the midfield to make chances for them.

I recently re-watched the highlights of that WC QF with Germany, and I guess I hadn't remembered how many really clear-cut chances we had in that game. (I guess I was blacked out from exhaustion and excitement when I watched it live.) But it's really pretty amazing -- if it weren't for a few miracle saves by Kahn, a few flubbed chances from our guys, and that completely gutless non-call by Hugh Dallas, we really could have found ourselves one game away from the World Cup final, with South freaking Korea in the way. That would have been something.
 

dirtynine

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I'll always remember that wild Reyna 40 yard lob that caught Kahn off his line. I actually thought it was going in.
 

coremiller

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I thought Tony Sanneh's header at the end was in at the time. Every time I see the replay, I get fooled again.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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Someone on Germany had a free header in the box too but hit the post. Klose maybe. USA had the better of the play, but Germany was superior in the air. The goal was really hard to defend. Friedel actually almost got it though.
 

Dummy Hoy

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God I still get emotional watching that goal and/or the celebration video. I was at The Field in Cambridge, coincidentally seated next to Naoko Funyama, and lost my goddamn mind when Donovan scored that goal. I was off of my stool like a shot, spinning in circles with my hands on my head saying "holyshit holyshit holyshit holyshit" over an over again. That was right up there with Damon's slam, Bergeron's SHG, Vinatieri's kick, Chris Capraro's goal, and probably a few others for Visceral Reaction sports moments.
 

djhb20

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Watching the highlights of the T&T game, two things:

1) we were terrible back then, even in our highlights
2) Tony Meola is wearing a hat while playing goal in the most important US soccer match in 50 years.