All this week, ussoccer.com will look back at the USA's historic 2-0 victory against Mexico in the 2002 World Cup, reviewing the scene around one of the most important moments in U.S. Soccer history. In this installment, we recount some of the interesting off-the- field stories surrounding the team prior to the match, as well as a taking a look "inside the numbers." More than 63,000 tickets have been sold for the U.S. rematch against Mexico which takes place this Thursday in Houston at 7:55 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and Telemundo.
The Inside Story
Off the field news surrounding the historic match...
TIGHT-LIPPED TEAM: With Arena planning to change tactical formations as well as move team captain Claudio Reyna to the right midfield spot, the element of surprise was paramount. Players and staff were expressly forbidden from discussing the strategy to anyone outside the team. Plans were kept so secret that absolutely no one outside of the team staff and players knew about the line-up until the game kicked off, leaving media, broadcasters and fans on their own to figure out as the game unfolded.
SILENT 90: The Korean National Swat Team, an elite unit detailed to the U.S. team for the duration of their time in Korea, found their first opportunity in a month to play a soccer game on the morning of the match. The only time they could play was 7 a.m., before the team woke up, and the field was located just outside the dormitory. Not wishing to disturb the U.S. players, members of the Swat Team played the entire 90-minute match in complete silence.
SAFE AND SECURE: To say the U.S. team was well protected would be a bit of an understatement. Over 120 security personnel from the United States and Korea guarded the team's hotel, training facility, transport vehicles and gear on a daily basis. Two floors and one elevator were reserved for U.S. access only, and 23 of 29 entrances to the hotel were sealed off during their one-month stay. The team got its first taste of security upon its arrival at the Incheon Airport, where over 800 police and security staff formed a human chain from the gate to the team bus. For the charter flight to Daegu and the second match against Korea, an armored personnel carrier sat on the runway while the entire airport was closed!
CALL WAITING: President George W. Bush called the team at 10:58 a.m. the morning of the game. Only the team staff and Arena were aware of the impending call. The full team and staff assembled in one of the classrooms to listen by speaker phone as Bush and Arena spoke.
HAVE POTS, WILL TRAVEL: Due to the lack of kitchen staff at the dormitory-style Samsung Wellness Institute, where the U.S. team resided prior to the match, an eight-man food service crew from the JW Marriott – from chefs to dishwashers – traveled to Jeonju with the team. Since the facility also lacked refrigeration space, a special truck carrying all the required food was transported to the site and remained running 24 hours a day.
Inside the Numbers
- USA's first win in the knockout phase in team history
- With two goals vs. Mexico, the U.S. scored a total of seven goals in the 2002 World Cup, their most in any World Cup since 1930
- U.S. MNT Manager Bruce Arena improved to 5-3-0 vs. Mexico, including 5-1-0 at home or neutral sites
- Mexico only conceded two goals in the first round, before surrendering two to the United States
- Mexico has never advanced to the quarterfinals of the World Cup when playing outside of Mexico
- First time Mexico was held scoreless in the World Cup since a 1-0 loss to Norway in 1994, a span of seven games
- The 2-0 win against Mexico was the USA's first shutout in the World Cup since 1950, a span of 14 games
- Cobi Jones has played against Mexico 15 times in his international career. The USA's all-time capwinner (159) has appeared in 15 of the last 18 meetings against Mexico since making his debut on July 25, 1993
- By entering as second half substitutes, Jones and Earnie Stewart became the USA's all-time leaders in World Cup appearances. The three-time World Cup veterans have 11 caps each in World Cup play