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St. Louis - A History of the USMNT in the Gateway to the West

The U.S. MNT returns to one of the country’s soccer hot beds when it opens 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying against either St. Vincent and the Grenadines or Aruba on Nov. 13 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.

The match marks the MNT’s first game in the United States’ historic soccer capital in nearly 20 years, with the side last paying to a 0-0 draw against Paraguay at Busch Conference & Sports Center (now St. Louis Soccer Park) on June 4, 1997.

What made St. Louis such a bastion for soccer in the United States?

Clubs from the city made an early mark on the U.S. Open Cup (then known as the National Challenge Cup), with Ben Millers first lifting the Dewar Trophy in 1920. Scullin Steel followed up two years later before Stix, Baer and Fuller (later known as St. Louis Central Breweries) went to four straight finals from 1932-1935, winning all but the first.

Much of St. Louis’ continuing soccer strength came from the city’s representation on the U.S. team that went to the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Five of the 11 players that appeared in the USA’s historic 1-0 victory against England hailed from St. Louis: goalkeeper Frank Borghi, defenders Charlie Colombo and Harry Keough and midfielders Gino Pariani and Frank Wallace.

In 1948, Borghi, Colombo and Pariani all won National Challenge Cup titles with Simpkins Ford, while Wallace joined them to win the title in 1950. Keough would taste domestic cup glory of his own, winning with St. Louis Kutis in 1957.

Upon retirement as a player, Keough wrote another chapter in the city’s soccer history when he became the head coach of St. Louis University. With five NCAA tournament championships already in the trophy case, Keough guided the Billikens to another championship in his first season in 1967. He’d go on to lead the school to four more tournament titles in five years from 1969-1973.

One of the top players in U.S. MNT history, Brian McBride attended the school from 1990-1993, before going on to play in three World Cups and build a famous club career, most notably with Fulham FC in the English Premier League. Other World Cup participants that hail from St. Louis include Mike Sorber (1994) and Brad Davis (2014).

Current U.S. MNT defender Tim Ream, as well as former U.S. internationals Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston, Chris Klein and Pat Noonan also earned their soccer stripes coming up in the Gateway to the West.

Though it’s been a while since the MNT’s last appearance in St. Louis, the team has been successful in the Mound City, going 5-1-2 all-time with the only defeat being a World Cup qualifying loss to Canada on July 6, 1957. Six of the eight matches played in St. Louis have been World Cup qualifiers, with the MNT earning two wins (against Jamaica and Costa Rica) and a draw (against El Salvador) in the team’s successful campaign to qualify for the 1990 FIFA World Cup. 

U.S. MNT to play 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier in St. Louis on Nov. 13

The U.S. Men’s National team will play its first home match of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The match will be played Nov. 13 against the winner of the Third Round Qualifying match between St. Vincent & The Grenadines and Aruba.

Tickets go on sale to the public Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 10 a.m. CT through ussoccer.com, by phone at 314-345-9000 and at the 8th Street ticket windows at Busch Stadium (open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Ultimate Fan Tickets (special VIP packages that include a premium ticket, a custom-made official U.S. National Team jersey with name and number, VIP access to the field before and after the game, and other unique benefits) are also available exclusively through ussoccer.com.

The kickoff time and broadcast information will be provided in the near future. The two-legged playoff between St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Aruba is scheduled for Sept. 4 and Sept. 8.

This past weekend, the U.S. was drawn into Group C for the Semifinal Round of CONCACAF Qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. During the Semifinal Round, the MNT will play each of its Group C opponents twice, once at home and once away. The dates of the games are Nov. 13 and 17, March 25 and 29, 2016 and Sept. 2 and 6, 2016; the opponents for those match days will be determined after the completion of the Third Round of Qualifying (Schedule below). Group C includes Trinidad & Tobago, and the winners of Third Round Qualifying matches between St. Vincent & the Grenadines/Aruba or Antigua and Barbuda/Guatemala. The Group C winner and runner-up advance to the Final Round of World Cup Qualifying known in CONCACAF countries as the Hexagonal.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be playing our first World Cup qualifier towards Russia 2018 in St. Louis,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “There is no more appropriate place to start this campaign than a city that has contributed so much to the history and tradition of soccer in the United States. Some of the best players we have ever produced have ties there, and now we look forward to bringing the National Team back home to St. Louis where we know the support will be incredible.”

The match marks the MNT’s first game in the United States’ one-time soccer capital in nearly 20 years, with the side last playing to a 0-0 draw with Paraguay at Busch Conference & Sports Center (now St. Louis Soccer Park) on June 4, 1997. It will be the first World Cup qualifier played in the St. Louis area since the USA’s 0-0 tie with El Salvador in 1989, which was also played at Busch Conference & Sports Center.

“This is a historic opportunity for St. Louis as the U.S. Men’s Team kicks off its quest to qualify for the 2018 World Cup at Busch Stadium,” said Bill DeWitt III, President of the St. Louis Cardinals. “We’re incredibly excited to be the host for this match and are looking forward to showing that we have some of the best soccer fans in the country.”

The MNT is 5-2-1 all time in the city of St. Louis (4-1-1 in World Cup Qualifiers) and is 7-2-2 in the state of Missouri.

In April, the U.S. Women’s team played a World Cup tune-up in St. Louis at Busch Stadium, drawing a crowd of 35,817, which ranks as the largest crowd in U.S. history for a standalone Women’s National Team friendly match.

World Cup Qualifying Match Dates

Date

Match A

Match B

Nov. 13, 2015

USA v VIN-ARU winner

ATG-GUA winner v TRI

Nov. 17, 2015

TRI v USA

VIN-ARU winner v ATG-GUA winner

March 25, 2016

ATG-GUA winner v USA

VIN-ARU winner v TRI

March 29, 2016

USA v ATG-GUA winner

TRI v VIN-ARU winner

Sept. 2, 2016

VIN-ARU winner v USA

TRI v ATG-GUA winner

Sept. 6, 2016

USA v TRI

ATG-GUA v VIN-ARU winner

MNT to Face Mexico in Playoff for 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup Berth

The U.S. Men’s National Team will face archrival Mexico in a playoff game for a berth in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup that will be played on Friday, Oct. 9, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. 

Kickoff time and television information are still to be determined. Participating member associations and supporter groups will have access to purchase tickets in advance of the public sale. Tickets will be available to the general public in September. 

The USA’s place in the playoff was secured when it won the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Mexico won the 2015 edition of the tournament and in so doing qualified for the playoff. The Oct. 9 playoff game will be played during a FIFA international match window.

The loss to Jamaica in the semifinal ended a nine-match unbeaten run for the United States in 2015 that included consecutive victories against Mexico in San Antonio, and away wins against then sixth-ranked Netherlands and 2014 FIFA World Cup winners Germany. Overall, the U.S. has a 3-1-1 record this year against teams ranked in the top 20 in the world.

In April of 2013, CONCACAF announced the split of the region’s berth to the Confederations Cup between two editions of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, assuring that both editions of the Gold Cup in each four-year cycle have the same competitive importance.

The Confederations Cup is the prestigious dress rehearsal that takes place in the host country a year before the World Cup. In 2017, the Confederations Cup will be played in the same stadiums the teams will use during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. In the 2009 edition in South Africa, the USA beat then No. 1-ranked Spain in the semifinals and advanced to the final, finishing as runner-up to Brazil.

MNT Falls To Panama on PKs in 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Third Place Match

CHESTER, Pennsylvania (July 22, 2015) – The U.S. Men’s National Team was defeated by Panama 3-2 in penalty kicks in the Gold Cup Third Place match Saturday afternoon at PPL Park. 

Trailing 1-0 at the tail end of the second half, substitutes DeAndre Yedlin and Clint Dempsey combined to level the match, 1-1. 

As the clock continued ticked away, both sides attacked and generated chances, but none found the back of the net, and after an additional 30 minutes of extra time, the match was off to penalty kicks. 

In PKs, the U.S. converted its two opening penalties, but then saw a miss and two consecutive saves by Panama ‘keeper Luis Mejia, which made Harold Cummings’s conversion in the fourth round the winning kick. With the result, the MNT finished fourth at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. 

Later this year, the MNT will face the winner of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup – either Jamaica or Mexico – in a one-game playoff for a spot in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. The playoff pits the winner of the 2013 and 2015 Gold Cups against one another for a spot at the tournament in Russia the year before the World Cup. The USA last featured at the Confederations Cup in 2009 when the team beat then No. 1-ranked Spain and advanced to the Final against Brazil. 

Goal Scoring Rundown:
PAN– Roberto Nurse (Ronaldo Blackburn) 55th minute: Roberto Blackburn slipped a pass up to Nurse, who attacked U.S. defenders Tim Ream and John Brooks and pushed into the box. Nurse sidestepped Brooks, freeing himself to curl a shot around Guzan and into the net for the game’s first goal. USA 0, PAN 1 (SEE GOAL) 

USA – Clint Dempsey (DeAndre Yedlin) 70th minute:  Michael Bradley looped a long ball to Yedlin, who chested it down in the box, took a turn and sent it across to Dempsey on a late run. The defense and goalkeeper had collapsed on Yedlin, which freed Dempsey to bury his seventh goal of the tournament to level the game. USA 1, PAN 1 (SEE GOAL)

Penalty Shootout:
USA-Aron Johansson: Johansson sent the first shot right down Broadway and in for a score. USA 1, PAN 0
PAN-Roman Torres: Torres responded with a well struck goal into the top right corner. USA 1, PAN 1
USA-Clint Dempsey: In what was signature style for the month of July, having already chipped two goalies on PK’s, Dempsey did so again to put the U.S. ahead. USA 2, PAN 1
PAN-Abdiel Arroyo: Arroyo stutter stepped and blasted a shot low and hard by a diving Guzan. USA 2, PAN 2
USA-Fabian Johnson: Johnson came up third for the U.S. and sent his kick over the crossbar. USA 2, PAN 2
PAN-Armando Cooper: Cooper rolled his attempt and Guzan dove to his left and corralled it to keep the shootout level. USA, 2, PAN 2
USA-Michael Bradley: The U.S. captain sent a shot hard to the left, but Mejia guessed right for Panama and deflected it away. USA 2, PAN 2
PAN-Harold Cummings: Cummings sent a shot to the left, Guzan dove and got a hand to it, but the ball powered into the net. USA 2, PAN 3
USA-DaMarcus Beasley: Beasley blasted a shot toward the right side of the goal, but Mejia was headed that way, and he made a diving save to end the game in Panama’s favor. USA 2, PAN 3 (FINAL)

Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
USA – Time Ream 36th minute: Armando Cooper intercepted an errant MNT pass and countered with pace down the center of the field. He attacked the box, beat a defender and then slid a shot past Brad Guzan towards the back post. Fortunately for the U.S., Tim Ream was there, booting the ball off the goal line and out of bounds for a corner kick.

USA – Fabian Johnson 54 minute: From a corner kick, Panama sent a ball in that forward Ronaldo Blackburn headed sharply at goal. Fabian Johnson was there to clear it off the goal line to safety.

USA – Brad Guzan (save) 81st minute: A Panama cross from the outside on the left found the head of Ronaldo Blackburn, who directed it firmly toward the back post. Brad Guzan fully extended and just reached the ball with his left hand, pawing it down before taking another dive to smother it.

USA– Brad Guzan (save) 108st minute: Roberto Nurse was freed on the left side for an attack at goal. As he wound up and fired off a shot, DeAndre Yedlin slid in and deflected it. The Ball continued to spin at goal, but Guzan was ready for it and knocked it away on a dive.

Coming up Next: #USAvPER
Location: RFK Stadium – Washington D.C.
Date: September 4, 2015
Opponent: Peru 

Milestone Watch:

  • Clint Dempsey’s game-tying goal was his seventh of the competition, which is the most-ever by an American player in a single Gold Cup tournament.
  • Dempsey’s 12 Gold Cup goals tie him with Mexico’s Luis Roberto Alves for second on the tournament’s all-time list behind only Landon Donovan (18).

Additional Notes:

  • U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann made six changes to his starting XI from the team that began Wednesday’s Semifinal against Jamaica: Timmy Chandler, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Graham Zusi, Joe Corona and Chris Wondolowski all came into the lineup.
  • Corona earned his first start of the tournament. 
  • Brad Guzan and Michael Bradley were the only two U.S. players to start all six matches of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
  • The match was the U.S. MNT’s third in a Gold Cup third place match and marked the first time the team had not won the game (2-1-0)
  • The U.S. MNT record against Panama dropped to 12-1-4 (5-1-3 in Gold Cup games)
  • The MNT is now 3-2-3 all-time in matches in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

MNT Looks Ahead

Playing in Saturday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup Third Place match isn’t what U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann or any of his 23-man roster envisioned they’d be preparing for at this point.

U.S. captain Michael Bradley admitted that coming to terms with Wednesday’s 2-1 semifinal defeat to Jamaica will take some time.

“That part is never easy,” he told ussoccer.com. “When you have a goal and everything goes into that for a few weeks and when that ends, there’s disappointment, frustration -- there’s sadness. There’s a need for everybody to take some time and digest it and sift through it all. In some ways that’s something that’s not going to end in the next few hours or even before the game starts tomorrow.”

The U.S. now looks to October 9 and the playoff to determine CONCACAF’s representative in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, facing the winner of Sunday’s final. The game against Panama now becomes the first in preparation for that huge match, along with big international friendlies against Peru and Brazil scheduled for early September.

“Any time you’re with the national team, it’s a chance to continue to build on the work you’ve previously done,” Guzan told ussoccer.com. “You want to continue to push forward and there aren’t many opportunities to get together as a National Team before that playoff. Everyday we’re together, including tomorrow, it’s a chance for us to get better as a team and push forward, make sure we’re on the same page and show our appreciation for the fans. We do that by putting together a good performance and a good result.”

Winning the playoff not only crowns the de facto giant of the region, a place in the Confederations Cup provides the participants a massive opportunity to get a dry run in Russia a year before the World Cup.

“The Confederations Cup is something that means a lot to us and regardless of who that game is against, we’ll be ready to give everything we can to take care of business and find a way to get ourselves there. After that, November will come quick and World Cup qualifying begins.”

Though one of the team’s main goals wasn’t accomplished, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann still feels his team has made strides in 2015, defeating world champions Germany and World Cup semifinalists Holland, as well as bringing along a young group of players that will no doubt play a part in the team’s bid to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

 “I think this year after the 2014 World Cup has been very, very useful,” said the U.S. boss. “We played highly competitive friendlies overseas. We did well in some -- others we lost. We brought younger players into the program that are already locked into the inner group of the National Team, like Ventura Alvarado, like John Brooks who seem to be growing, like Gyasi Zardes who is really impressing and getting stronger and stronger.”

Specific to 22-year-old center backs Alvarado and Brooks, the pair gained valuable experience playing together in seven matches over the course of this year already. Overall, the MNT went 4-1-2 with the pair on the field together, the lone loss coming in Wednesday’s semifinal.

Klinsmann indicated that the criticism the young defenders have faced after the defeat isn’t surprising, but the growth and adversity the two have gone through so far in 2015 will only help going forward.

“I’m absolutely not negative about certain players that maybe now have some of the heat on. If you look at our young center backs, there’s enormous talent that is growing through. We’re going to help them. If I look just at Ventura and John Brooks, I think they played together in seven games and we only lost this one just a few days ago. They were on the field against Germany and Holland. They have to go through this pain, we’re going to go through pain here and there -- do a step back here and there. It’s part of their growth and if there’s a moment to criticize, that’s fine.”

Before players go back to their clubs for regular season games or preseason preparation, they hold the additional goal of finishing on a high note for the fans that have provided tremendous support throughout the tournament.

“We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our fans, to step on the field tomorrow and give everything we have to play well, be sharp and to win and give everybody that walks into that stadium a good show,” Klinsmann said. “We’ll have a group of guys that will be ready to do that.”

Behind The Crest: Ep. 6 - #USMNT at the Gold Cup

After a tough loss in the semifinal, the U.S. Men’s National Team heads to Philadelphia looking to close out the Gold Cup with a positive performance in Panama. Jurgen Klinsmann and Michael Bradley look ahead to the match and the next steps for the team beyond the tournament.
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