Clutch Performers: A Look at the Goals that Sent the USA to the World Cup
The FIFA World Cup qualifying process adheres strictly to the old adage “It's a marathon, not a sprint.” The path to the World Cup is a slog that encompasses multiple years, a plethora of games and dozens of players; it is very much a group effort. At the same time, an individual moment of brilliance can often be the catalyst for a team's progression to the World Cup finals. On Oct. 10 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Landon Donovan became the seventh player to score the goal that clinched a FIFA World Cup berth for the U.S. Men’s National Team. Here’s a quick look at the goals, and the men that scored them.
1934 – Aldo ‘Buff’ Donelli
A record four-goal performance by Donelli in a 4-2 win vs. Mexico on May 24, 1934, in Rome qualified the U.S. for the World Cup, which began for the U.S. three days later. Donelli scored the only U.S. goal of Italy ’34 in the USA’s only game, a 7-1 loss in the opener. Later, Donelli briefly played and coached in the NFL, and was a long time college football coach.
Career totals: 2 caps, 5 goals
1950 -- Pete Matevich
Two goals by Matevich, the third and fourth of the game for the U.S. in a 5-2 win against Cuba, were enough to take second place in the North American Football Confederation Championship and a spot in Brazil ’50. Despite the effort, he wasn’t included on the World Cup team.
Career totals: 4 caps, 2 goals
1990 – Paul Caligiuri
The ‘Shot Heard Round the World’ for the U.S. team, Caligiuri’s dipping shot from 30 yards put the U.S. in the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 40 years. Like Donelli, he would also score in the World Cup opener for the U.S. in Italy, a 5-1 loss to Czechoslovakia.
Career totals: 110 caps, 5 goals
1998 – Claudio Reyna
Just five minutes into a Nov. 9, 1997, qualifier in Burnaby, British Columbia, Reyna took a pass from Roy Wegerle on a breakaway and slotted it home from nine yards out. The goal was the first in a clinching 3-0 victory versus Canada on the ninth match day of the Final Round. Reyna went on to start all three games in France ’98, and has started all but one game for the U.S. in the last three Cups.
Career totals: 112 caps, 8 goals
2002 – Joe-Max Moore
On Oct. 7, 2001 in a pivotal Matchday 9, the U.S. was coming off three consecutive losses and faced a must-win game. Moore scored in the fourth minute on a header, but Jamaica tied the score 10 minutes later. In the 81st minute, Moore converted a penalty drawn by Landon Donovan to get the U.S. a 2-1 win. Moore appeared as a sub in two games during the USA’s successful quarterfinal run in Korea.
Career totals: 100 caps, 24 goals
2006 – Steve Ralston
On the seventh matchday of the Final Round before Germany ’06, the U.S. faced Mexico at home on Sept. 3, 2005 in Columbus, Ohio. After a scoreless first half, Eddie Lewis curled a free kick that Oguchi Onyewu headed off the post – and Ralston was there to tap in the rebound for the game winner in yet another 2-0 victory against the arch rivals. Ralston played in eight qualifiers in 2005, but, hampered by injuries, was left off the squad for Germany.
Career totals: 36 caps, 4 goals
2010 – Landon Donovan
The U.S. traveled to Honduras for Matchday 9 of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, and with Costa Rica trouncing Trinidad & Tobago at home, the U.S. team knew by halftime that only a win in San Pedro Sula would be good enough to book a ticket to South Africa. Donovan scored the winner directly on a free kick in the 72nd minute of the 3-2 victory, with two goals from Conor Casey, his first for the national team, helping the U.S. to a win and a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Career Totals: 120 caps, 42 goals