Where were you on Feb. 11, 2009? Chances are you were either posted up in front of your TV, getting ready to watch the USA open the final round of World Cup qualifying, or if you were lucky enough to score a ticket (and determined to brave some intense conditions) then you were making your way to Columbus Crew Stadium to watch the MNT take on Mexico.
Six years ago today, the USA beat Mexico 2-0 in Columbus, setting Bob Bradley's team on the path to an eventual first-place finish in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying final round group. An excellent team performance was punctuated by goals in each half from Michael Bradley as the USA earned a deserved victory against their regional rivals.
In addition to the familiar scoreline, the game was memorable for many other reasons: the eerie thunderstorm before the game, the incredible support from U.S. fans, and the sense of accomplishment at foiling Mexico yet again in the fortress of Crew Stadium.
We asked a few players who were involved that night to reminisce about that memorable night. The first thing Brian Ching mentioned was the weather, not surprising for the native Hawaiian. "I remember it was freezing," said Ching, who put in a workman-like shift up top alongside Landon Donovan. "We had been preparing for a long time, and we came out extremely determined. There is always a lot of hype around a Mexico game. We knew what we needed to do, and we got it done.”
"It was an important win for us, starting us off on the right foot in the final round of qualifying."
Fresh off a hat trick against Sweden, midfielder Sacha Kljestan started in the center of the park for the USA, and he too recalled the special atmosphere that night.
"I was glad to be a part of the team that day. I remember coming out for warm-ups and seeing all our fans behind the goal in red," said Kljestan. "It was great to have so much support. It was a pretty exciting match to play in Columbus, which is kind of like a home stadium for us and a place where we've played some pretty important games."
Kljestan's midfielder partner Michael Bradley put in two goals on the night, the second coming in second-half stoppage time. The shot from distance that squirmed past the hapless Oswaldo Sanchez sealed the win for the USA.
"Both goals that Michael scored that day were great, but the second one was the icing on the cake," said Kljestan. "I remember when that second goal went in celebrating with the rest of the team, realizing we had started off on the right foot and earned all three points."
Heath Pearce talked about the mood surrounding the game. A player with 29 international caps to his credit, Pearce described the game as a unique experience.
"Every international is important, but the whole buildup to USA-Mexico is so much more intense. it just feels different," said Pearce, who played 90 minutes in the victory. "You can feel the aura around the game and in the people you're with who have experienced it before. There are no games that prepare you for the intensity and tradition of a USA-Mexico game."
Pearce also remembered celebrating with teammates and fans after the hard-fought victory.
"The win was something we really earned and we worked hard as a team in sticking to our game plan that day. It was a great feeling to be able to do it in front of that many U.S. fans who were there supporting us and were so positive throughout the game. Sharing the win with them was amazing."
Though the U.S. had played one game before the match against Mexico, the 2-0 win in qualifying really set the tone for a successful year. Beating your biggest rival with the spotlight of the region shining brightly on Columbus, keeping yet another clean sheet at home, and enjoying the moment with the U.S. faithful provided the perfect foundation for a memorable 2009 for the national team. Three hundred and sixty-five days later, we can look back on the first place finish in qualifying and say that the win against Mexico was the catalyst.
U.S. Men’s National Team head coach BOB BRADLEY
On the match:
“We just talked a little bit to the team and certainly congratulated them on a good win, fighting from behind. I thought there were a lot of positives. There were some good efforts, as a whole, things that we’ve been trying to get at in a camp in January and then into February. There were some positive things on the field tonight and again, in these kind of games, showing the qualities on the field, when you get down, trying to push at the end to get a win, obviously a very good play at the end by Sacha [Kljestan] to get us a result.”
On Conor Casey and Brian Ching:
“Brian has just been in this camp. Brian had a little bit of an injury at the end of the season last year. We talked with him, we talked with Dominic Kinnear, we agreed that January he would work on his own, he would do strengthening, and we would get him into camp in February. I think in this camp, it’s like a preseason. He starts and the first few days, you can see it’s a little bit slow. But Brian has qualities on the field in terms of putting himself in good positions, holding balls, bringing guys into the game. He’s a player that works hard for the team. He puts himself in good positions. I think often he makes players around him better because of the type of honest, dirty work that he does. I thought that was clearly the case in the second half. Had some chances, the goalkeeper made some great saves, but he got himself a goal, and I thought he had a good presence.
“Conor has been in both camps. He came on as a reserve against Honduras and then tonight played the first half. I would say that if you look back to last year, Conor showed that he’s a good finisher. For a big man, still, as a striker, he’s deceptive. He finds a way to go by people. He gets chances. He scores different kinds of goals. He scored two very important goals for us in Honduras. I don’t think that in the early part of this year that we’ve seen the best of Conor, yet. What we just talked about with all these guys as we make some decisions tonight with regards to Holland, and then most importantly as we make decisions that go on and later on factor into the World Cup. We’re going to be watching how they’re playing with their teams. We’re going to be looking for form, fitness, mentality and we hope that they can make the decisions as hard as possible on the coaches by playing real well.”
On selecting players for the match against the Netherlands:
“It’s important to say that decisions for Holland involve many different factors. In some cases we might have an idea that we want to see another guy play, so not bring in a player isn’t necessarily a statement that he has for some reason dropped down a little bit, just that we have two opportunities, this week and the next game to see some guys and we also recognize that we’ve had a number of these players away from their club teams a good amount in January, in the case of a guy like Clarence Goodson, because his team in Norway had actually started doing stuff. MLS guys, it’s just been this last stretch but we factor all those things in.”
On the pressure as the time approaches to name a roster for the 2010 FIFA World Cup:
“There’s always pressure on the coach. It’s okay. We have a good staff. I think we constantly, we watch games, we have discussions, when we’re in camp, every day we’re reevaluating things and as we go forward, we’re confident that we’re going to get a really strong group, a group that will have a great mentality and a group that’s going to go and give it all a great shot.”
On how wide open the roster selection will be:
“If you take injuries out and you hope that certain guys can rehab well, I think that there’s probably a strong nucleus of guys that we’ve seen throughout qualifying that hopefully are going to be there. Again, whether that group is 15, 16, 17 or 18 depends on the discussion at any point. Some days it’s high, some days it’s low and then we just need to continue to watch games and check out rehab and see how it goes.”
On how much he takes into account what goes on in training compared to games:
“All of that gets factored in, but that’s true every time we come in when we have a double fixture date and we have a week of training leading into a game, then we might have an idea as players come in, what we think the lineup might be. But obviously, now, you still need to see when training begins how sharp guys are, are they fit, what’s the mentality, so that’s an on-going thing. You balance opportunities that they get in games with what you see in training. You put it all together and make those kinds of decisions.”
On Jonathan Bornstein:
“I thought Jonny played very well tonight. He has very good defensive qualities. He reads the game well. He’s quick. He’s a very athletic defender even though he’s not that big. We saw him play a lot last year as a centerback for Chivas and he did quite well. We’ve now tried to make sure that he’s comfortable and that in certain situations we can consider that. We thought he played well tonight.”
U.S. Men’s National Team Midfielder SACHA KLJESTAN
On scoring in added time after missing a few chances earlier in the match:
“It felt good. It felt like I was doing a lot of the little things right tonight as compared to maybe the game in Honduras where maybe I wasn’t closing down fast enough or making plays in my area or being hard enough to play against. Tonight I think I did those better and that got me in the game more and got me some looks in front of the goal. Obviously, I had two good chances in the first half but I was glad I could make up for it in the end.”
On the goal:
“They were playing around with the ball in the back a lot tonight and at the very end the guy had his head down and I thought he wouldn’t see me coming from his blind side, and I guess I just picked his pocket and Ching played me a good ball back through.”
On whether he feels like he’s putting himself back into a good position with the U.S. MNT:
“I hope so. I feel like in the January and February camps I tried my hardest just to get back in the team. And prove to myself, prove to the teammates and prove to the coaching staff that I want to be here and deserve to be here and can be a positive for the team. I think the game against Honduras wasn’t my best but I think tonight I played a little bit better and I hope to continue to get a chance to move on and be a part of the team.”
On Brian Ching:
“Brian is a guy that makes guys around him better. It’s always easy to play with Ching because he shows up in the tough spots and he puts his body on the line in front of defenders, he holds the ball up well and he brings other guys into the play. When he came on tonight he had a very positive impact. It’s always easy playing with him because he does the tough things in getting a goal and setting off another. I’m just glad we could combine for the last goal.”
U.S. Men’s National Team Midfielder EDDIE GAVEN
On his performance:
“I felt good. The team worked really, really hard and it was good to be able to come back after we went down 1-0 to come back and win. It definitely felt good for us tonight.”
On Brian Ching:
“Brian played great. He caused so much havoc for them. He just worked so hard off the ball, created chances and scored a very nice goal. He was very good for us tonight.”
U.S. Men’s National Team Forward JEFF CUNNINGHAM
On the difficulty of working together as a team while competing with teammates for a place on the team:
“The coach reminded that us before the match that we’re still a team. We’re all trying to show our abilities but it’s still a team game and we need to play together and get a result as a team. He knows what he’s looking for and I think we did that tonight. We fought and we deserved to win.”
U.S. Men's National Team Forward BRIAN CHING
Thoughts on tonight's 2-1 victory against El Salvador:
“I thought we played pretty well. We limited their chances and created a lot of chances ourselves. We could have done a better job finishing and put the game away a little earlier, but give credit to the 'keeper; I think he made some great saves.”
On coming onto the field as a second half sub and how he got into the game:
“Sometimes when you sit and watch the first half you kind of get to watch the defense and see how they are reacting. What I wanted to do in the second half was put myself in good positions and I think I did that. I tried to get everybody involved and hold the ball and lay it off and I think that went well today.”
On the experience of coming from behind to get the win:
“It's a young team so to come back from behind is good for us. It's a good learning experience and for a lot of guys, you could see their confidence build as the game went on. There were more and more chances we were getting at the end and everybody believed we could get the win. We went out there and we did it and I think it was a great game for a lot of guys to learn. Sometimes you're going to be in a tough situation and I think we reacted well to it.”
On starting his season off on a positive note:
"Anytime you play well it gives you a little bit of confidence. I hope I can keep that going for whatever my next game is, into the season and hopefully to the World Cup. It's one game so you can't read too much into it, but it was a good start to the season for me and hopefully I can build on that."
U.S. Men's National Team Defender JONATHAN BORNSTEIN
On tonight's 2-1 victory against El Salvador:
"I thought we fought pretty hard to come back. We gave up that goal but I don't think they had many chances other than that. It was a letdown at that moment but the guys showed a lot of character and a lot of heart. We ended up getting two goals in the end and got the W. That makes the game feel a lot better and I thought if we had taken more of our chances we would have been up a lot sooner."
On wearing the captain's armband for the first time:
"It is a tremendous feeling. It was my first game leading the team out onto the field and to get a win in the same game just topped it off. But I thought a lot of the guys showed heart and leadership out there, not just myself. I just tried to do the best job as captain I could."
U.S. Men’s National Team Midfielder GEOFF CAMERON
On earning his first cap with the U.S. Men's National Team:
“It’s what you dreamed of when you were a little kid. It's just one stepping stone, and I want to accomplish a lot more as a player. It was a great experience training with the guys and being with the national team, and it was great to get my first cap.”
On fighting for the victory with teammates who have spent two camps together in January and February:
"You're representing your country and it's a little different level. We spent almost a month together during the last training camp and then this one. It's almost all the same guys fighting for it every day. You get used to the guys playing next to you and the win makes it all worthwhile."
- Twenty Players Will Travel from Carson, Calif. to Tampa, Fla. For Feb. 24 Game with El Salvador
- Kickoff for Match Set for 7 p.m. ET, with live Coverage on ESPN Classic and Galavision
CHICAGO (Feb. 20, 2010) â€” U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bob Bradley has named a roster of 20 players to travel to Tampa, Fla. for the Feb. 24 match against El Salvador at Raymond James Stadium. The U.S. team is concluding a ten-day camp at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. and will travel to Florida on Sunday in preparation for the game.
The match against El Salvador, the USA's second game of 2010, can be seen live on ESPN Classic and Galavision. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET. Fans can also follow along at ussoccer.com's MatchTracker and at twitter.com/ussoccer.
The U.S. Men's National Team has been drawn into Group C with England, Slovenia and Algeria for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The U.S. will open its sixth consecutive World Cup finals tournament against England on June 12 in Rustenburg, and will follow that game with matches against Slovenia on June 18 in Johannesburg and Algeria on June 23 in Tshwane/Pretoria.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION Click Here For Detailed RosterÂ
GOALKEEPERS (2): Troy Perkins (D.C. United), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (5): Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)
FORWARDS (4): Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)
The first Hawaiian-born player to earn a cap for the U.S. Men’s National Team, he is renowned for his work rate and physical presence on both sides of the ball. Ching has also brought intelligence and selfless play to the U.S. forward line, and added goals to boot. Scoring in four consecutive years for the full team, his tally has now reached double digits. He earned the Budweiser Golden Boot award for the third straight year in Houston, scoring a team-high eight goals.
- Just the second player in MNT history to score a goal in each of his first two World Cup qualifying games, after Eric Wynalda did it in 1996
- Finished in third place in scoring for the U.S. with four goals in 10 appearances in the 2010 qualifying cycle
- Captained the U.S. in the last two matches of the 2009 Gold Cup, including the 2-0 win against Honduras in the semifinal
- The team’s all-time leading scorer, Ching now has 63 goals for the Houston Dynamo
Date of Birth
May 24, 1978