With nearly 700 official matches in the books against 97 different opponents since the U.S. Men’s National Team first started playing in 1916, the MNT has accumulated a rich history of dramatic results, intriguing story lines and interesting anecdotes.
Ahead of Tuesday’s match against Chile (7:55 p.m. ET; ESPN2, UniMas and UDN), here are three tidbits of the MNT’s history against La Roja:
Wynalda Joins Rare Company With Copa ’95 Brace
While the 3-0 win against Argentina is the signature victory of the USA’s fourth-place finish at Copa América 1995 in Uruguay, the team’s success in that tournament started with the opening 2-1 win against Chile.
Newly equipped with a shaved head, lead MNT striker Eric Wynalda registered both goals – making a near post-run to re-direct now-MNT General Manager Earnie Stewart’s cross from the right in the 14th minute before swerving home one of his patented free kicks six minutes later.
Wynalda’s brace was historic for two reasons:
- He is one of two MNT players to score two goals in a match on South American soil. The other was Bert Patenaude, who registered a hat trick in a 3-0 win against Paraguay during the inaugural 1930 FIFA World Cup, also in Uruguay.
- More impressive, the two goals, plus the one he scored days later in a 3-0 win against Argentina, played a part in the striker becoming the only player to tally for the MNT on five different continents – North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Quite a feat!
Balboa’s (Second) 100 Cap Milestone
The match was historic for another reason that wasn’t recognized as such at the time. Prior to the USA heading to South America for the tournament, long-time defender Marcelo Balboa became the first MNT player to earn 100 caps when he appeared in a 3-2 win against Nigeria on June 11, 1995 in Foxborough, Mass.
Or so he thought…
A few years later, U.S. Soccer was prompted by FIFA to revise the cap numbers of players who had represented the USA in games that were not deemed official senior team matches. This caused Balboa to lose three MNT caps, meaning his actual 100th game came in the 2-1 win against Chile on July 8, 1995.
Balboa, who finished his international career with 127 caps in 2000, remained the first MNT player to hit the century mark.
Three Debuts Against Chile
In more recent times, current MNT players Sean Johnson, Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes received their international debuts against Chile.
On Jan. 22, 2011, Johnson entered for Nick Rimando at halftime of a 1-1 draw with Chile at the recently renamed Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. [HIGHLIGHTS]
The USA’s most recent match on South American soil saw the now-Columbus Crew duo come off the bench in the 3-2 defeat, with Trapp replacing Mix Diskerud in the 60th minute and Zardes entering for Clint Dempsey in the 68th. [HIGHLIGHTS]
In advance of the USA’s two April friendlies matches – on April 4 against Australia in Commerce City, Colo., and on April 7 against Belgium in Los Angeles – U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis spoke with ussoccer.com about the opponents, roster selections and the games.
On her goals for the April friendlies and their potential
impact on World Cup roster selection:
“Right now, everything is about preparing for June. Recognizing that these are our last friendlies before the “Send-Off Series” and that we’re playing two quality teams provides a positive sense of urgency to get the most out of these two matches. Australia is a top-6 team, and Belgium came within a goal of qualifying for the World Cup, so these opponents will provide us a level of competition that we’ll be experiencing in France. Our time together will be important to keep forging team chemistry and build on the connectivity on the pitch so we can bring out the best from each other in our team play.”
On facing a familiar opponent in Australia:
“We’ve had some highly competitive games with them over the past few years and we love playing Australia as they push us to be better on both ends of the field. There aren’t very many unknowns between our teams and they have quite a few players playing in the NWSL, but while there is a familiarity, they will also have new leadership, and that may or may not influence a change in personnel or style. What remains important is our preparedness for being able to read and manage any situations our opponents will present.”
On facing Belgium for the first time:
“The growth of many Women’s National Teams around the world has been remarkable to watch, but this is especially true of these European countries outside of the teams who have had the most recent success like Germany, England, Sweden, Norway and France. When you look at teams like Spain, Scotland and Portugal, and the countries that competed in the UEFA World Cup playoffs – Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark – you see teams that have made remarkable strides over the past four or five years and that only helps grow the game worldwide. Belgium is a country with a rich soccer culture – I believe their men’s team is ranked #1 in the world – so I can only see the Belgian women’s team continuing to improve and we’re really excited about the opportunity to play them for the first time.”
On calling up defender Ali Krieger:
“I spoke with Ali and she’s excited to come into camp and help this team in any way she can. Opportunities, however they transpire, are exactly that, and Ali has been a great pro and will no doubt lean on her experience and strengths when she comes back into this environment. Recently, she has been training with her club in the outside back position and with the potential to add depth on the right side, it was good timing to bring Ali into this camp to join the other six defenders.”