The U.S. Men’s National Team has kept the party going since its 4-3 victory against Germany on June 2 – U.S. Soccer’s Centennial Celebration Match, which was held at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
That game marked the start of a record-breaking run that has now led the USA to the final of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup against Panama on Sunday, July 28, against Panama at Soldier Field in Chicago.
As the USA shoots for its fifth straight Gold Cup crown, here are some interesting numbers and trends by the team over this stretch:
- Altidore fuels start: Jozy Altidore scored one goal in each of the first four games of this winning streak.
- Donovan’s stellar return: Landon Donovan has scored seven goals and assisted seven others during this winning streak to lead the team in both categories in 2013. The seven assists tie for second-best in Donovan’s career, and the seven goals rank second only to his record-setting 10-goal performance in 2009. Donovan also has a chance with his next goal or assist to tie a career high for goals/assist production – he was involved in 15 goals (10 goals, 5 assists) in 2009, and he sits at 14 (7 goals, 7 assists) for 2013. Donovan now has 56 career goals and 56 career assists, comfortably holding the all-time record in each category.
- Wondolowski heats up: Entering the year with eight caps and zero goals to his name, Chris Wondolowski proved that his heavy MLS scoring arsenal is no fluke. During the streak he has scored six goals, including a first-half hat trick during the USA’s 6-1 win against Belize on July 9.
- 3.4 per game: That is the USA’s scoring average during the winning streak as the team has outscored its opponents by an impressive 34-8 margin. Thirteen different players have scored a goal during this stretch.
- Four clean sheets: The U.S. blanked Panama 2-0 on June 11, shut out Honduras 1-0 on June 18, garnered its most lopsided victory of the year with a 6-0 win against Guatemala on July 5, and topped Costa Rica 1-0 on July 16.
- Staying ahead: During this winning streak, the U.S. MNT has trailed for less than 10 minutes of regulation time. Its only deficit came when Cuba scored a 36th-minute goal to take a 1-0 lead on July 13. Donovan found the equalizer with a first-half stoppage time penalty kick and the USA would score three second-half goals en route to a 4-1 victory.
- First career goals: Four U.S. MNT players will fondly look back on this run when they notched their first career tallies. This group includes Alejandro Bedoya (1), Joe Corona (2), Brek Shea (1) and Wondolowski (6).
On Feb. 9, 2013, the U.S. Women’s National Team kicked off the new year with a 4-1 victory against Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida. Christen Press, then 24-years-old, was responsible for two goals that day, scoring in the 13th minute and adding another in the 32nd to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead at halftime.
The early goal was Press’ first for the USA, coming in a match that was also her first cap.
Becky Sauerbrunn hugs Christen Press in the aftermath of Press scoring on her WNT debut.
Earning that first cap is special for any player, but a debut and a goal in the same game? That’s a rare feat. In the 30+ year history of the U.S. WNT 21 players have scored in their first caps.
NOTHING TO LOSE
Press’ path to that first game three years ago was an interesting one. In early 2012, she made the decision to move to Sweden after U.S.-based Women’s Professional Soccer folded. Press thought leaving the country might negatively impact her hopeful National Team career, but little did she know, it was only just beginning.
“I think just because I always thought that the National Teams would be watching the American league, I thought that going abroad was kind of like saying goodbye to my dream of playing for the National Team,” recalled Press. “I left around this time, in February, and I thought I would not get a call, I sort of thought that I would fall out of U.S. Soccer’s radar.”
As it turns out, head coach Pia Sundhage kept tabs on players in Europe, especially in her native land of Sweden. Press got off to a hot start with her new club, and it wasn’t long before she was on her way back home.
Press returned to the U.S. and joined the WNT in Florida in April during the final stretch of what had been an intense fitness camp. She kept to herself and tried to quickly learn as much as possible despite only being there for five days.
“I had nothing to lose,” she said. “It was my first camp, it was warm and I was so happy. I don’t think I spoke to anybody. I was not nervous, I was just happy to be in Florida and my dream was coming true. I’m always quiet when I don’t know my surroundings, so I just kept to myself trying to learn the rules, how to behave; it was all so quick.”
That short stint turned out to be the only one for Press before she was named an Olympic alternate in 2012. The following February, Tom Sermanni took over as WNT head coach, and it was then Press learned she would start against Scotland. Her chance had arrived.
“I went on the field, the crowd was so much bigger than I’d ever played in front of, and for me it was so much bigger than life,” said Press. “But I kept telling myself, ‘I’m not nervous, I’m confident, I’m a good player and I believe in myself.’”
Years and multiple goals later, plus one Women’s World Cup title to her name, the dream is alive and well for Press.
Press celebrates scoring her first World Cup goal against Australia in the USA's opening match of the 2015 Women's World Cup