Coming back from 3-0 down to win a match is a soccer rarity, but that’s exactly what the U.S. Men’s National Team did in a friendly against Saudi Arabia on Oct. 8, 1995 in Washington, D.C.
Earlier in the year, the team said goodbye to the experienced hand Bora Milutinovic – the head coach who led the USMNT to the Round of 16 at the 1994 FIFA World Cup – and was led forward on an interim basis by his assistant Steve Sampson. The caretaker coach guided the USMNT to an early milestone with a 4-0 rout against Mexico, leading to the 1995 Nike U.S. Cup championship that June.
A month later came the 3-0 upset of Argentina that led to the side winning its group and finishing a surprising fourth at the prestigious Copa America.
Sampson was extended the full-time job later that summer, and the team looked to put a bow on a successful year with a final friendly against The Green Falcons at RFK Stadium. Just as the USA had made history by advancing to the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 the summer before, so had the Saudis, who booked their ticket to the Knockout Round with a 1-0 upset of Belgium at the very same RFK Stadium where the year-end friendly took place.
HIGHLIGHTS: USMNT Overcomes Three-Goal Deficit to Down Saudi Arabia | Oct. 8, 1995
Perhaps inspired by the return to the baseball ground turned vaunted soccer venue, the attack-oriented Saudis turned the USA in circles, running out to what seemed an insurmountable 3-0 lead inside the first 29 minutes.
An uncommon first-half substitution followed, with Sampson inserting Roy Lassiter for Roy Wegerle up top in the 35th minute. The sub sparked a chaotic 30-minute interval in which the USA did the unthinkable.
1 - 3
2 - 3
3 - 3
4 - 3
After seven total goals in 66 minutes – and four from the USA in the span of 30 – the scoring was done. Both teams had more chances – the USA to go up further and Saudi Arabia to equalize – but the game ended 4-3.
It was just a friendly to cap a busy year, but nearly 25 years later it remains significant. In 712 total international matches played by the USMNT since 1916, it marks the only time the USMNT has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a match.
- U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report -
Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Saudi Arabia
Date: October 8, 1995
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: RFK Stadium; Washington, D.C.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 3 4
CRC 3 0 3
KSA – Sami Al-Jaber 9th minute
KSA – Fahad Al-Mehalel 11
KSA – Saaed Al Owairan 29
USA – Alexi Lalas (Tab Ramos) 36
USA – Joe-Max Moore (Claudio Reyna) 49
USA – Tab Ramos (Roy Lassiter) 62
USA – Roy Lassiter (Tab Ramos) 66
USA: Brad Friedel (Jurgen Sommer 46'), Jeff Agoos, Mike Burns, Paul Caligiuri (capt.), Alexi Lalas, Joe-Max Moore, Tab Ramos (Frank Klopas 80'), Claudio Reyna, Mike Sorber, Steve Trittschuh, Roy Wegerle (Roy Lassiter 35')
Head Coach: Steve Sampson
KSA: Al-Hadad, Mohammed Al-Jahani, Mohammed Al-Khilaiwi, Ahmed Esca, Ahmed Madani, Khalid Al-Ternawi, Sami Al-Jaber, Saeed Al-Owairan (Fahad Al-Ghashayan 80'), Fahad Al-Mehalel, Al-Ruwished, Saleh Al-Dawod
Head Coach: Ze Mario
Referee: Paul Tamberino (USA)