Any competitive elite soccer player will tell you that being a consistent starter is the goal. You want to be on the field representing your team and battling from the first minute to the last. That said, being a substitute may be even harder mentally. Not everyone is the best player coming off the bench. To be a good reserve, you must be mentally locked in, resilient and ready to make something happen to provide a boost when your team might need it the most.
2016 National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Shannon MacMillan, better known as Mac, played 176 games for the USA. She started her fair share of matches, but came off the bench 62 times, the most substitute appearances of any player, besides Heather O’Reilly, who has played 175 or more games for the USA.
“Shannon was the type of player, that whether she was starting or coming off the bench, she always made an impact,” former U.S. WNT captain and teammate Julie Foudy said.
MacMillan battled hard when it came to establishing her role in the Women’s National Team pool. At times during her career she was in and out of the both the squad and the starting lineup. The ups-and-downs served only strengthen her and helped mold her into the vital player she became for the USA.
MacMillan scored 60 goals for the USA, but perhaps none was bigger than her game-winning golden goal against Norway in the semifinal of the 1996 Olympics. Norway had knocked the USA out of the 1995 Women’s World Cup a year earlier, and their celebration was not what you would call classy.
“I just remember her making this incredible diagonal run,” said former teammate Mia Hamm of MacMillan’s Olympic semifinal score. “I remember her seeing running through the midfield, and then she just cuts across and lays it in with such grace and composure. No big deal, finishes it off and finishes Norway off.”
Three days later, this time as a starter, she got the USA going in the gold medal game, scoring the first goal in the 2-1 victory against China.
“In the final, the Chinese goalkeeper made an incredible save (on Hamm’s shot), but then there’s Shannon right there to slot it home first time for us,” Hamm said of the 19th minute goal. “For her to give us that boost and confidence going in for the rest of the game was huge.”
The goal embodied a common topic when former teammates and coaches talk about MacMillan: she always delivered. She gave the team an extra lift and always kept a positive attitude, a strong work ethic and a love for the game.
Currently, MacMillan is the director of club operations for the Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks Soccer Club in her native San Diego, passing on those qualities and her passion for the game to the next generation of young players.
Achieving fame and a legendary status in sports usually comes because of a combination of two things: 1) you’re one of the best at your craft and, 2) you are the author of a moment (or moments) so mythical, that it remains etched in the minds of generations to come.
Think Jason Lezak’s come-from-behind relay swim against France in the 2008 Olympics, or Keri Strugg landing her vault despite a badly injured ankle in the 1996 Olympic Games. Think Abby Wambach’s last-minute header against Brazil at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, or Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup.
The reason these moments are unforgettable is because they happened when it mattered most. In a competition when everything was at stake, when you needed to call upon the preparation that every drop of sweat, every tear, and every hour of training had given you.
They happened in do-or-die situations when the number of people watching was massive and everyone was on the edge of their seat, waiting, hoping for the dream to come true and then… the dream does.
U.S. Soccer has had a few of these moments that brought a nation to its feet, moments that spurned thousands headlines and brought tears of joy to fans of all ages. Whether more recent moments, like the Donovan or Wambach goals, or Carli Lloyd’s epic hat-trick performance in the 2015 Women’s World Cup Final, or even years ago, when the 1950 World Cup men’s team defeated powerhouse England in one of the most shocking upsets in international soccer, these indelible marks were left on this organization, on this country and its people.
But even among these legendary moments there is one that stands out from the rest. A moment that changed women’s soccer in the United States and around the world: Brandi Chastain’s final penalty kick in shootout at the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final.
“You need a couple days to talk about Brandi as a player,” former WNT captain and teammate Julie Foudy said. “She had this passion that just oozed out of her for the game. It was contagious. She always wanted to learn and get better. When she stepped up to that penalty spot, I knew we had won it.”
Chastain’s left-footed blast into the upper left corner against China PR was the kick that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup, but her celebration became as historic as her goal. Once the ball rippled the net, Chastain ripped her shirt off as she fell to her knees and screamed while pumping her arms in perhaps one of the most unbridled displays of joy ever witnessed in sports.
"Before the kick, the stadium was so incredibly quiet - it's amazing how 90,000-plus people could be silent - if I had to stop, I could hear my heart beating," Chastain said recalling the moment she stepped up to the penalty spot. “I had no idea that would be my reaction. It was truly genuine and it was insane and it was a relief and it was joy and it was gratitude all wrapped into one.”
Chastain had a highly successful 12-year career with the U.S. Women’s National Team. She played in 192 international matches and scored 30 goals from 1988-2004. A two-time Olympic gold medalist (1996 and 2004) and silver medalist (2000), she was the first U.S. player to score five goals in one match, accomplishing the feat in 1991 during World Cup Qualifying as a forward when she came off the bench to score the first five goals of her career.
While she debuted for the USA in 1988 as a forward (her college position), the vast majority of her international caps were earned after she converted to a defender from 1996-2004. She competed in three FIFA Women’s World Cups (1991, 1999 and 2003), winning world titles in 1991 and 1999 and enters the Hall of Fame as a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee.
Chastain may have gained world-wide fame – and the covers of Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and Time – for that famous moment, and while it may be what people remember the most, it’s what the moment meant for the game that has made the biggest impact on women’s sports.
“Women's soccer was not anonymous anymore.” Chastain said.
A crowd of 90,185 witnessed history at the Rose Bowl on a sweltering day in Pasadena, California back on July 5, 1999. And more than 40 million people watched it on television in the U.S. alone. But it’s the millions of little girls and young women that were drawn to play sports or to reach for their dreams in anything they choose. It was the empowerment of that moment that was resonated 18 years later.
That’s the beauty of sports. They can be unpredictable and cruel yet glorious and life-changing.
“Yes, the sport is great and soccer is great and winning is great, but the bigger picture is that Brandi always inspired these girls to play and enjoy the gift of sport,” Foudy said. “That’s something she brought every day.”Read more
The USA’s World Cup Qualifying series with Honduras has served up memorable matches at every turn. Ahead of USA-Honduras, presented by Volpi Foods, take a photographic look back at the series with the players that were heroes along the way.
Following a wild set of matches in 2002 FIFA World Cup Qualifying the U.S. earned two comeback wins during the 2009 Hexagonal, sending the team on its way to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Current MNT captain Michael Bradley and other players look back on the most recent series during the 2013 Hexagonal.
Feb. 6, 2013 – Honduras 2, USA 1
The U.S. opened the Final Round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying with a difficult away fixture in Honduras. Wanting to get off on the right foot, the home side elected for an early afternoon kickoff, when the sun and heat were at their highest, to give Los Catrachos more of a home-field advantage.
“It was a brutal day,” remembers MNT captain Michael Bradley. “It was hot as could be, humid and this was back when there were still single fixture dates. I believe this was a game on a Wednesday where we had all played on the weekend and were returning right after the game to play another game with our club teams. As usual, we met in Miami on Sunday or Monday, flew down to Honduras, trained once in the stadium and then played.
“Those fixtures were always whirlwinds, and when you add in the fact that most of us were playing in places where in February the weather was cool [eight of the 11 starters were playing in Europe at the time], it meant that it was a real challenge in terms of the conditions and getting ourselves ready. It was early afternoon, very hot and the grass there is traditionally left very long and is slow and thick. We knew from the beginning it was going to be a tough day.”
As expected, the early moments of the match saw Honduras on the front foot, but the U.S. sustained the pressure as they served up a few opportunities that Tim Howard easily dealt with.
“We were having to defend and take care of some things, but I don’t think it was huge chance after huge chance. Nonetheless, they had the upper hand and they were looking at home to really be aggressive. We were able to withstand some pressure and quite honestly you’re always going to have to do that on the road in qualifying.”
The U.S. picked its moments and came close when Eddie Johnson crossed for Jozy Altidore who’s flick-on redirection grazed just over the bar in the 29th minute.
Two more Honduras chances came just after the half-hour mark when Roger Espinoza made his way into the box and pushed the ball past Tim Howard, only to have Fabian Johnson clear the danger away from lurking Honduras forward Jerry Bengtson. Moments later, Espinoza forced a turnover at the back which led to Mario Martínez blasting a shot that Howard had to punch over the bar.
Against that pressure, the U.S. found the go-ahead goal in the 36th minute. A small bit of possession in midfielder resulted in Jermaine Jones sending a weighted ball into the area, where Clint Dempsey timed his run before volleying past Noel Valladares and inside the left post.
“There are going to be periods where you have to deal with the home team really being aggressive and coming at you and you have to understand in those moments how to take care of things and still not give anything away,” Bradley said. “I thought we were able to do that and obviously it ends with the fact that we were able to get a really good goal to go up 1-0.”
While the U.S. looked to take the lead into halftime, the goal instead galvanized Honduras, who struck back three minutes later. Following a corner kick, defender Victor Bernárdez chased down a ball in the right corner and crossed for Maynor Figueroa. The center back chested the ball up in the air where Juan Carlos García rose to slam home a bicycle kick inside the top left post.
“To give away a goal right after we went up 1-0 and right before halftime was not ideal in any way. In a game like that if you can take your goal into halftime and they’ll have a little bit of time to regroup and get yourselves ready for the second half. That makes a big difference.”
Halftime did little to quell the Honduras attack. Oscar Boniek García fired just wide of Howard’s goal in the 52nd minute and what looked like the go-ahead goal was waved off when Carlo Costly was judged to be offside.
“We couldn’t make a play. Obviously the longer the game goes, the heat and travel certainly come into play. In the end, those are thing we’ve all dealt with before and to not be able to walk out of there with a point was very disappointing.”
Tiring in the afternoon heat, the U.S. mostly bunkered in hopes of stealing a point, but finally conceded what would stand as the game-winner in the 79 the minute. A worn-out U.S. defense saw Figueroa slip Boniek Garcia through before sliding for Jerry Bengtson who finished into an empty net.
“I just remember us being slow to react all afternoon and a little bit sluggish and you see that on both of the goals we gave away.”
June 18, 2013 – USA 1, Honduras 0
The U.S. rebounded from that opening defeat, earning a 1-0 victory against Costa Rica in the famous SnowClasico on March 22 before an historic 0-0 draw away to Mexico four days later. Entering the summer set of qualifiers, the MNT used a late goal from Brad Evans to earn a 1-0 win at Jamaica on June 7, and goals from Eddie Johnson and Jozy Altidore to take a 2-0 home win vs. Panama on June 13.
Those four results gave the MNT plenty of momentum going into the June 18 date against Honduras in Salt Lake City, with a win vs. Los Catrachos likely setting the U.S. up for qualification come the September international window.
Playing at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, the U.S. pressed the attack early on, with Clint Dempsey’s seventh-minute header going just wide of the right post. Moments later, Fabian Johnson exploited the left flank and crossed for Eddie Johnson whose one-time effort was only kept out with a sprawling save from Valladares.
A scoreless first half led to more U.S. chances in the second, with Dempsey leading the way.
The veteran forward’s snap header was well-saved in the 56th minute. Four minutes later, a wild scramble in the box concluded with Dempsey heading the ball down where Honduras midfielder Wilson Palacios committed a clear hand ball, yet avoided a penalty kick. In the 70th minute, Graham Zusi crossed for Dempsey again, but his glancing header was again kept out by Valladares.
Just as it looked like the goal might not fall for the U.S., Dempsey and Johnson worked a quick combination up the left, before centering for Altidore who coolly finished to the back post, scoring in his fourth-consecutive U.S. match.
The MNT locked down and closed out the game, and that September defeated Mexico 2-0 in Columbus to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.Read more
As an artist and a soccer fan, Jason Seife has always seen a connection between the two disciplines.
“Although sport is not something that is initially thought of as a creative field, it truly is,” he said. “It’s something that you work very hard at, you put yourself out there, and it’s a way of expressing yourself. That’s what art is, that’s what music is. It’s all intertwined.”
But it wasn’t until a meeting with U.S. Men’s National Team player Alejandro Bedoya where that connection became more personal.
“He is actually a close friend of mine and a collector of my work,” said Seife, who is based in Miami. “He’s someone that I met through the art world, but we hit it off on a more personal level, both being from South Florida. Aside from being a soccer lover, having a personal connection with Bedoya has brought me even closer to the team and makes me even more stoked to be a part of this project.”
The project Seife is referring to is an exclusive poster he was selected by U.S. Soccer to create for every fan in attendance at the USA-Honduras World Cup Qualifier, presented by Volpi Foods, on March 24 in San Jose, Calif.
The collectible poster is on the back side of the card stunt each ticketed fan will receive when they get to their seat in Avaya Stadium. The card stunt will display red and blue seating sections that spell out “USA” and “One Nation, One Team”. All fans are encouraged to arrive early to participate for the full-stadium card stunt, which will take place during the Star-Spangled Banner before the game kicks off.
Seife’s artwork, inspired by traditional Heriz rug design, deftly renders intricate, colorful patterns with a mixture of acrylic and ink. While the paintings utilize familiar motifs in Persian rug design like leaves and geometric shapes, Seife introduces colors and patterns not normally associated with the heavy textiles, creating his own interpretations that reflect his mood and thoughts while creating his pieces.
“My work is inspired by old, traditional, Persian rugs,” he said. “A lot of people are attracted to my work because it’s something that’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but has meaning behind it. As an artist, you have to find a balance between what’s meaningful to you but is also pleasing to the eye. That’s how I came to this type of work, and I’m learning more about it as I go along.”
“For this piece, the type of rug I was inspired by was given to warriors and their families after they would go to battle. It was considered almost a royal symbol to commemorate their accomplishments. I felt it was good match for this piece because symbolically, we are going to battle and there’s a lot on the line for this game. Although this piece will be given to fans before the “battle”, to me this will celebrate what is about to happen and how I feel the outcome will be.”
When creating the poster for the U.S. Men’s National Team, Seife imagined the large center medallion representing the obstacle that is in front of the U.S. MNT at this moment in the qualifying campaign, and the colorful ink reflects the pride in red, white and blue millions of Americans plan to show as they support the team on March 24.
“With a very important three points on the line, I wanted the artwork to reflect the USA’s pride and resilience when our backs are against the wall,” Seife said. “If I had to sum this piece up in one word, it would be unity. No matter what the outcome is, what we can take away from this is that we’re coming together in a challenging time and we need to fight to get the outcome we want.”
Below is the full Q&A with Seife about his inspiration for the piece, his heritage, and connection to soccer.
ussoccer.com: Tell us more about your background and your specific craft? When did you get started?
Jason Seife: “I was born in Miami, but my parents emigrated from Cuba. Since a very young age, I was inclined to the fine arts. I had an elementary school teacher that realized I had talent and she suggested that I apply to a program specific to the arts. From then, I started realizing how passionate I felt about it. Now, my main craft leans more towards fine arts and painting, but I also do some graphic design work.”
What is your connection to soccer and specifically to the USMNT?
JS: “I have a lot of different connections to the sport and the USMNT, starting by simply being a huge fan of soccer in general. I’ve played since I was a kid, and continue to play for fun to this day. On a deeper level, I have a personal connection to U.S. MNT midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. He is actually a close friend of mine and a collector of my work. He’s someone that I met through the art world, but we hit it off on a more personal level, both being from South Florida. Aside from being a soccer lover, having a close friendship with Bedoya has brought me even closer to the team and makes me even more stoked to be a part of this project.”
What does it mean to you to have millions of Americans support their country through your artwork?
JS: “It’s extremely humbling. Any part that I can have in supporting our country is an amazing feeling. It’s great to know that my artwork has put me in a position where I could do something like this, where I can lend a small hand in bringing the U.S. together. However, it’s a lot of pressure. It’s something that I deeply care about so I wouldn’t do something just for the sake of doing it. It would have to be a situation where I felt I could bring something substantial to the table. This opportunity is something that I don’t take lightly, and I’m excited to be a part of this. I hope that the fans will appreciate it.”
Can you expand on your inspiration for this piece?
JS: “The meaning behind the design stems from being an immigrant in this country. Having Cuban, Lebanese and Syrian backgrounds, I understand that diversity and the mix of different cultures is what makes this country so great. It was cool to be able to bring a bit of my heritage and background into it, and then put a twist on it to make it American in its own way.
My work is inspired by old, traditional, Persian rugs. A lot of people are attracted to my work because it’s something that’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but it has meaning behind it. As an artist, you have to find a balance between what’s meaningful to you but is also pleasing to the eye. That’s how I came to this type of work, and I’m learning more about it as I go along.
For this piece, the type of rug I was inspired by was given to warriors and their families after they would go to battle. It was considered almost a royal symbol to commemorate their accomplishments. I felt it was good match for this piece because symbolically, we are going to battle and there’s a lot on the line for this game. Although this piece will be given to fans before the “battle”, to me this will celebrate what is about to happen and how I feel the outcome will be.”
What message are you looking to convey to the team and the fans through your art?
JS: “If I had to sum this piece up in one word, it would be unity. If you look at the design, you’ll notice that every single line ties into the next one. The team is on the field, the crowd is in the stands, the fans are watching at home, but at the end of the day we’re all tied in together supporting the same cause in unison. No matter what the outcome is, what we can take away from this is that we’re coming together in a time when our backs are against the wall and we need to fight to get the outcome we want. There’s a lot going on in our country right now that is separating people, so it’s always great when we have sporting events like this that bring people together from all sorts of different places.”
How do you believe sports and art are tied together?
JS: “Although sport is not something that is initially thought of as a creative field, it truly is. It’s something that you work very hard at, you put yourself out there, and it’s a way of expressing yourself. That’s what art is, that’s what music is. It’s all intertwined.
Stylized black and white photos from the U.S. Men's National Team training session on March 22 in San Jose, Calif. The MNT is preparing to take on Honduras with hopes to earn what will be a critical three points in their World Cup Qualifying campaign. The match take place on March 24 in San Jose's Avaya Stadium. Coverage of USA-Honduras, presented by Volpi Foods, begins at 7:30 p.m. PT on FS1, UniMas and UDN. Fans can also follow the game live on Facebook and Twitter at @ussoccer and @ussoccer_esp.Read more