The U.S. Men’s National Team rode a shock opening win against fourth-ranked Portugal, a draw against the host Korea Republic and a little help from the goalposts to advance to the Round of 16 at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Finishing second in the group meant that the MNT would have less than three full days rest to turn around and face regional rivals Mexico in the highest stakes match the two nations had ever played. With little time to prepare, in some respects the U.S. was lucky to have drawn the team with which it was most familiar.
Despite the U.S. having won four of the previous five meetings, according to U.S. captain Claudio Reyna, when the team arrived at Jeonju World Cup Stadium that June afternoon, there wasn’t much respect shown from the opposition side.
“Before the game we walked out and we were walking around the field. We had this focus and concentration as a team as you do preparing for any game,” the former team captain told ussoccer.com. “I was with Eddie Lewis, Frankie Hejduk, Gregg Berhalter and Earnie Stewart and we were ready to go – we were foaming at the mouth for this game. We looked over and the Mexicans were laughing, joking and looking at us…That was it.”
Reyna called the team over to quickly finish their pre-game pitch inspection and head back into the locker room.
“We sort of wanted the game to start, we were so ready to go,” he continued. “Back in the locker room, I remember saying, ‘These guys are laughing at us. They think they’re going to beat us easily.’”
Mexico had done efficient work to get to that point. Having finished with seven points atop a group that featured Italy, Croatia and Ecuador, El Tri’s run to the Round of 16 had the side brimming with self-assurance ahead of the match.
“They were feeling confident, but the lack of respect they showed was clear – you never do that,” said Reyna. “I would never do that in my career, even if I felt really comfortable about beating an opponent. That you’d be giggling, laughing and joking at the opponent. It was pretty clear that it was directed at us and at some of our players, and obviously we play them all the time so there’s that rivalry.”
“I remember saying, ‘We’re not losing this game guys.’ Everyone went around and you could feel it all the way through that we couldn’t wait to get out there.”
Reyna gets past Ramon Morales in the most famous "Dos a Cero" in Men's National Team history.
Injuries and suspensions limited the U.S. options, and Bruce Arena used the uncertainty to confound the Mexicans by deploying a 3-5-2 formation for the match. The switch saw Reyna move from his regular central midfield position to the right flank, with the move paying off almost immediately. Following an eighth minute foul in the Mexico half, Brian McBride quickly restarted as he saw Reyna pushing up the flank. The U.S. captain beat two defenders to the end line before centering for Josh Wolff, whose deft touch teed up McBride for a clinical finish and an equally gratifying goal celebration.
The goal set an early tone and played perfectly into Arena’s game plan, allowing the U.S. to sit in and pick its moments to counter against an increasingly frustrated Mexican side. Landon Donovan’s second- half header off an Eddie Lewis cross helped ice the game, giving the MNT its first ever World Cup knockout round win and a quarterfinal date with Germany.
“It was just a great team performance. To beat them 2-0, eliminate them and afterwards realize this was a big deal back in the States,” Reyna said.
The win raised the profile of the Men’s National Team more than any other since the 1994 FIFA World Cup, but in an age before social media, Reyna admitted the players didn’t realize how big an impact the victory had made.
“We didn’t know how huge it was at home,” he said. “We were in Korea and we knew it was sort of growing in momentum. I remember seeing some of the news clips from Mexico City where there were people in plazas and squares crying over the result – that felt good.”
U.S. supporters celebrate during the MNT's 2-0 win against Mexico at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Though the momentum was already building towards U.S. domination of the rivalry, the World Cup win tipped the scales. Since 2000, the MNT has held a 13-5-5 advantage against El Tri.
“From that moment on, it continued to be a real domination of Mexico,” Reyna said. “We went on and beat them all the time. That was the point where we felt we were no longer playing behind them, that we were better than them.”
“It was one big coming out party on the biggest stage.”
For its second group game, the U. S. Men’s National Team will battle Portugal in the Arena Amazonia, while immersed in the steamy, jungle conditions of Manaus. The matchup on Sunday, June 22, which is live on ESPN, WatchESPN and Univision, brings up memories of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, when these two combatants met in group play, with the United States knocking off Portugal 3-2. ussoccer.com caught up with players and coaches involved in the 2002 victory to reflect on one of the most memorable days in USMNT history.
CHICAGO (Dec. 20, 2013) – U.S. Soccer unveiled its All-Time Men’s National Team Best XI to wrap up the Federation’s celebration of its Centennial anniversary.
For the MNT Best XI, Landon Donovan leads the way with 52 votes. He and Clint Dempsey represent the two players currently active with the National Team through 2013.
The MNT Best XI also features five members of the National Soccer Hall of Fame: defenders Marcelo Balboa (2005) and Eddie Pope (2011), midfielders Tab Ramos (2005) and Claudio Reyna (2012) and forward Eric Wynalda (2004).
Three-time FIFA World Cup goalkeeper Brad Friedel received 25 votes from the panel (44 percent of the vote).
Calculated by total votes, U.S. Soccer’s All-Time Men’s Best XI is arranged in a 4-4-2 formation and listed below in alphabetical order by position:
Goalkeeper – Brad Friedel 1992-2004 (25 votes)
Defender – Marcelo Balboa
1988-2000 (35 votes)
Defender – Carlos Bocanegra 2001-2012 (25 votes)
Defender – Steve Cherundolo 1999-2012 (25 votes)
Defender – Eddie Pope 1996-2006 (33 votes)
Midfielder – Clint Dempsey
2004-present (25 votes)
Midfielder – Landon Donovan 2000-present (52 votes)
Midfielder – Tab Ramos 1988-2000 (42 votes)
Midfielder – Claudio Reyna 1994-2006 (45 votes)
Forward – Brian McBride
1993-2006 (45 votes)
Forward – Eric Wynalda 1990-2000 (43 votes)
Complete voting results are listed below.
In an effort to create a fair and reasonable process to determine the All-Time Best XI, U.S. Soccer appointed a committee of soccer historians and former players, coaches, media members and administrators at the National Team level.
The committee determined the list of eligible players for selection to the Best XI, as well as the criteria to be considered by the list of voters. Voters for the MNT Best XI included 57 former players and administrators, as well as media members. The criteria the voters considered in determining their All-Time Best XI:
- Starter or key contributor to overall success on the field, especially in World Cups
- Longevity, overall performance and talent on the field with the U.S. Men’s or Women’s National Team
- Impact on the legacy of the U.S. Men’s or Women’s National Team program
Members of the voting include, in alphabetical order:
Jeff Agoos (former player), Roger Allaway (historian), Bruce Arena (coach), Esse Baharmast (referee), Marcelo Balboa (former player), Roger Bennett (media), Paul Caligiuri (former player), Andres Cantor (media), Jeff Carlisle (media), Dr. Bob Contiguglia (administrator), Rick Davis (former player), Steve Davis (media), Frank Dell’Apa (media), JP Dellacamera (media), Anson Dorrance (coach), Julie Foudy (former player), Werner Fricker Jr. (administrator), Carin Gabarra (former player), Bob Gansler (former coach), Steve Goff (media), Brian Hall (referee), Mia Hamm (former player), John Harkes (former player), April Heinrichs (former player), Chris Henderson (former player), Ted Howard (administrator), Clark Hunt (administrator), Cobi Jones (former player), Grahame Jones (media), Colin Jose (historian), Michelle Kaufman (media), Paul Kennedy (media), Alfred Kleinaitis (referee), Eddie Lewis (former player), Michael Lewis (media), Bob Ley (media), Ridge Mahoney (media), Kyle Martino (former player), Brian McBride (former player), Bora Milutinovic (former coach), Len Oliver (former player), Kevin Payne (administrator), Hugo Perez (former player), Eddie Pope (former player), Tab Ramos (former player), Alan Rothenberg (administrator), Hank Steinbrecher (administrator), Rob Stone (media), Jamie Trecker (media), Jerry Trecker (media), Jim Trecker (administrator), Al Trost (former player), Peter Vermes (former player), Kelly Whiteside (media), Mike Woitalla (media), Alex Yannis (media) and Mark Ziegler (media).
Complete Voting Results for All-Time Men’s National Team Best XI:
Brad Friedel 25, Kasey Keller 14, Tim Howard 13, Tony Meola 4, Arnold Mausser 1, Frank Borghi 0, David Vanole 0
Marcelo Balboa 35, Eddie Pope 33, Carlos Bocanegra 25, Steve Cherundolo 25, Thomas Dooley 20, Paul Caligiuri 18, Jeff Agoos 16, Alexi Lalas 14, Frankie Hejduk 9, Harry Keough 6, Pablo Mastroeni 3, Fernando Clavijo 2, Tony Sanneh 2, Mike Windischmann 2, Gregg Berhalter 2, Desmond Armstrong 0, Jimmy Banks, Brian Bliss 0, Mike Burns 0, John Doyle 0, Mike Lapper 0, Oguchi Onyewu 0, Werner Roth 0
Landon Donovan 52, Claudio Reyna 45, Tab Ramos 42, Clint Dempsey 25, Michael Bradley 20, Cobi Jones 12, Walter Bahr 6, John Harkes 6, Hugo Perez 3, Adolf Bachmeier 2, Rick Davis 2, John O’Brien 2, Al Trost 2, DaMarcus Beasley 1, Ed McIlvenny 1*, Joe-Max Moore 1, Brian Quinn 1, Mike Sorber 1, Chris Armas 0, Chris Henderson 0, Eddie Lewis 0, Preki 0, Ed Souza 0, John Souza 0
Brian McBride 45, Eric Wynalda 43, Earnie Stewart 16, Billy Gonsalves 7, Jozy Altidore 6, Peter Vermes 3, Joe Gaetjens 2, Archie Stark 2, Roy Wegerle 2, Roy Lassiter 1, Clint Mathis 1, Benny McLaughlin 1*, Ed Murphy 1*, Bruce Murray 1, Kyle Rote Jr. 1, Willy Roy 1, David Brown 0, Brian Ching 0, Aldo “Buff” Donelli 0, Frank Klopas 0, Bill Looby 0, Bert Patenaude 0, Josh Wolff 0
*These three players were not on the eligible list, but were write-in votes
The former U.S. Men’s National Team captain and midfielder had a highly touted playing career that included more than 100 caps with the National Team and more than a decade overseas.
Reyna played for the National Team for 13 straight years from 1994-2006, earning 112 caps and 94 starts. Reyna also scored eight goals, and his 19 career assists rank third all-time. Reyna was a member of four FIFA World Cup teams. He was injured and did not play during the World Cup, but he saw the pitch for the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
The Springfield, N.J., native became the first American player to be named to the FIFA World Cup All-Star First Team in 2002.
When Reyna was 21, he signed with German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen following the 1994 World Cup. That started a 13-year playing career in Europe.
Reyna played for the Bundesliga’s Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg from 1995-99, Glasgow Rangers of the Scottish Premier League from 1998-2002, followed by Sunderland and Manchester City of the Premier League from 2001-07. In 1999-2000, Reyna helped lead Rangers to its 11th Scottish Premier League title in 12 years.
Reyna made his way back to the States in 2007, joining Major league Soccer’s New York Red Bulls for their 2007 and 2008 seasons, announcing his retirement on July 16, 2008.
In 2010, Reyna was named U.S. Soccer’s Youth Technical Director, where he oversees the design and implementation of long-term strategies for the development of youth coaches and players.
Reyna was one of the most decorated players in college soccer, leading the University of Virginia to three straight NCAA titles in 1991, 1992 and 1993. He was a three-time first-team NSCAA All-American, tallying 21 goals and 22 assists for Virginia, ranking 10th all-time in points for the Cavaliers upon his graduation.
Date of Birth
Jul 20, 1973