That victory came in the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals, as the U.S. defeated defending World Cup champion Brazil 1-0 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
While Preki’s decisive 65th minute strike was picture-perfect, the game is best remembered as goalkeeper Kasey Keller’s career-defining performance. Making 10 saves, many of them from point-blank range, Keller received the affirmation of his display from Brazilian attacker and former World Player of the Year Romario, who shook the U.S. netminder’s hand after he made an incredible first-half stop and told media, “That is the best performance by a goalkeeper I have ever seen.”
Interestingly, Keller, who had just flown in from club duties with English side Leicester City, has said that he was hoping that night’s match might have been postponed.
“I remember there was a part of me that was still a little bit jet lagged and was kind of hoping that the game was going to be pushed a day,” Keller told ussoccer.com. “I was tired and I wouldn’t have minded getting an extra day to adjust after the long flight, but I started getting through warm-ups though and felt okay.”
Outshot 13-3 in the first half, Keller’s stops and a few close calls kept the U.S. in the match at halftime. After regrouping at the break, the insertion of Preki paid dividends when his 23-yard effort beat diving Brazilian goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel in the 65th minute. Another onslaught ensued, but Keller stood up to the challenge.
“It just wasn’t clicking for them,” he said. “I remember one of the saves I made in the second half where I completely dove the wrong way and just stretched my left foot out and the end of my toe just puts the ball around the far post and I’m thinking, ‘If I made that save, I think we have a good chance of actually pulling this thing off.’
Though it seemed like an eternity, the final whistle blew, giving the U.S. its first win against Brazil. Eighteen years later, the U.S. has faced the five-time World Cup champions 18 times, with the rainy affair in February 1998 being the lone positive result.
While Keller’s impressive individual display would be hard for anyone to forget, there’s a different reason he rates the match as his most memorable.
“When someone asks me if this was my best game ever, I say yes, but it was because it was a win. I helped the team get a result and I think ultimately, that’s the goal for all of us.”