Tournament Trivia: USA at Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying

By: Michael Lewis

As the U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team puts the final touches on its preparation for the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in Guadalajara, Mexico, here's some famous firsts, records, superlatives and interesting factoids about the USA’s history at the tournament.

 


FAMOUS FIRSTS

 


First game

After decades of automatically entering the Olympic soccer tournament without playing a qualifying match, the United States participated in its first Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament for the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

 

The USA met Mexico in the opening round, and in the very first encounter the U.S. dropped a 2-0 defeat in Mexico City on Oct. 8, 1959. Not much is known about the match as Jorge Diez scored in the 14th minute and Agustin Moreno added a second goal a minute before halftime. According to a short United Press International report, Mexico displayed "a powerful offensive throughout the game."

 

In the return leg in Los Angeles on Nov. 22, 1959, the USA played to a 1-1 draw and was eliminated as Mexico won the aggregate-goals series, 3-1.

 

First draw

That 1-1 deadlock with Mexico was the USA’s first draw, coming before a crowd of 8,200 at Rancho Cienga Stadium in Los Angeles on Nov. 22, 1959.

 

The U.S. grabbed a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute as Ed Murphy scored the first Olympic qualifying goal for his country. He netted from close range off a left-wing cross from Al Zerhusen. Murphy, incidentally, scored five times in 18 appearances for the U.S. Men's National Team. He and Zerhusen are members of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

 

The Mexicans equalized in what newspaper reports called a spectacular 40-yard goal that rebounded off the woodwork past goalkeeper Vic Ottoboni in the 85th minute. Ottoboni played well, making several key saves as defenders Herm Wecke and Joe Speca also stood out.

 

First win

In their fourth qualifying match and second game of the 1964 competition, the U.S. posted its first victory, a 4-2 triumph against Panama in the second game of a doubleheader in Mexico City on March 18, 1964.

 

Carl Gentile led the way by recording the first hat-trick in USA Olympic qualifying history. While Gentile was not included in the first qualifier, a 1-0 defeat to Suriname two days prior, the St. Louis native made the most of his opportunities as the U.S. overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit.

 

The USA dropped a 2-1 decision to Mexico on March 20, eliminating the team from the qualifying competition.

 

First home win and first shutout

The USA rode another hat trick to victory in its first home win, a 3-0 win vs. Barbados at Milander Park in Miami, Fla. on July 25, 1971. As Shep Messing registered the clean sheet, midfielder Steve Gay collected three goals. He scored in the 10th minute and headed home two Jim Zylker corner kicks in the second half past back-up goalkeeper Leon Bryan. Bryan had taken over for starter Everton Reid after he collided with the USA's John Carenza just two minutes after the first goal.

 

First road shutout

San Jose State graduate Gary St. Clair manned the nets flawlessly in his qualifying debut, a 2-0 victory over Bermuda at Balboa Stadium in San Francisco on April 27, 1975.

 

Defender Telmos Pires, who replaced Santiago Formoso in the Starting XI, kept Ralph Bean off the scoresheet after the Bermudan tallied twice in a 3-2 win against the USA in Hamilton, Bermuda on April 20, 1975. The Americans won the aggregate-goals series, 4-3.

 

Interesting note: Chris Bahr, who played with the Philadelphia Atoms and won North American Soccer League rookie of the year honors (11 goals in 22 games) with the club that season, paced the hosts with goals in the ninth and 60th minutes, the first off a pass from Glenn Myernick. He was also a placekicker for the Penn State University football team at the time and went on to kick 14 seasons in the NFL.

  

First penalty kick tiebreaker

The USA defeated El Salvador in a shootout, 6-5, after playing to a 1-1 draw in Kingston, Jamaica on May 14, 1972. On the deciding kick, goalkeeper Shep Messing was the hero, psyching out Mario Castro by taking off his shirt and spinning it over his head. Castro sent his shot over the crossbar on the ensuing kick. The Americans moved onto the next round and eventually booked a spot in the 1972 Munich Olympics, their first Olympic appearance in 16 years.

 

First scoreless draw

The USA and Canada played to a 0-0 tie at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa. on April 25, 2000.

 

First win by forfeit

While vying for the 1980 Olympics, the USA thought it had been eliminated at the start of the competition. The U.S. dropped its aggregate series to Mexico by matching 2-0 score lines - May 23, 1979 in Leon, Mexico and at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on June 3. They got a reprieve as the Mexicans were caught using professional players from Leon. The USA was awarded 2-0 forfeit wins to advance and later qualify for the Moscow 1980.

 

First consecutive shutouts

The USA recorded back-to-back clean sheets for the first time against Bermuda in 1979 as goalkeeper Paul Coffee backstopped both encounters.

 

The visitors secured a 3-0 win in Hamilton, Bermuda on Dec. 2, 1979 and kept the visitors off the scoreboard in the Dec. 6 match, a 5-0 result before 1,500 spectators at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

 


TOURNAMENT HIGHS


Most goals and largest margin of victory

Eight in an 8-0 victory over Haiti in Colorado Springs, Colo. on June 23, 1991. Dante Washington, Curt Onalfo and Alex Lalas each scored two goals in that encounter. Brad Friedel registered the shutout in goal.

 

Most goals in tournament

Forward Steve Snow scored nine goals during the 1992 qualifying run.

 

Longest goal-scoring streak

Steve Snow found the range in four contests during the stretch run of 1992 qualifying. He started his streak with a hat-trick in a 4-3 win vs. Honduras in St. Louis on April 5. He continued it with a goal in a 4-3 victory against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on April 19. He extended it to three games with a brace in a 3-0 blanking of Mexico in Bethlehem, Pa. on April 26, 1992. And he completed it in a 3-1 triumph past Canada in Bloomington, Ind. on May 10.

 

Hat tricks

In chronological order

 

-Carl Gentile (1964) - In a 4-2 win over Panama in Mexico City on March 18, 1964.

-Steve Gay (1972) - In a 3-0 win over Barbados in Miami, Fla. on July 25, 1971.

-Brent Goulet (1988) - In a 4-1 win over Trinidad & Tobago in St. Louis on Sept. 5, 1987.

-Steve Snow (1992) - In 4-3 win over Honduras in St. Louis on April 5, 1992.

 -Alecko Eskandarian (2004) -In a 4-3 win over Honduras in Guadalajara, Mexico on Feb. 7, 2004.

-Joe Corona (2012) - In a 6-0 win over Cuba in Nashville, Tenn. on March 22, 2012.


Back-to-back braces

Mike Seerey pulled off that rare feat during a 16-day period in 1972. He struck twice in a 2-1 win over Guatemala in Miami on April 25, 1972 and two more times in a 2-2 draw with Mexico on May 10, 1972.

 

Bobby Convey duplicated that achievement during a three-day span in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2004. He scored two goals in a 4-3 triumph over Panama on Feb. 3, 2004 before finding the net twice again in a 2-0 win over Panama on Feb. 5, 2004.


Most games as goalkeeper

Brad Friedel managed to play every minute of all 10 qualifying matches leading up to the 1992 Olympics, an American record. He registered an 8-1-1 mark with a 1.20 goals-against average and three shutouts. That included a seven-game winning streak and a nine-match unbeaten streak.

 

Shep Messing had the second-most games with nine in the 1972 qualifying competition, followed by David Vanole with six in the 1988 campaign for the Seoul Olympics.

 

Most consecutive games as goalkeeper

Brad Friedel also holds this mark with 10 appearances. Shep Messing is next with nine consecutive matches.

 

Most shutouts

Brad Friedel recorded three clean sheets during the qualifying run for Barcelona 1992. 

 

Longest shutout streak

Adin Brown and Tim Howard combined for three consecutive clean sheets in Hershey, Pa. In 2000.

 

Brown started it with the USA's 3-0 win over Honduras on April 21. Howard continued it in a scoreless draw with Canada on April 25 and Brown was back in the nets for a 4-0 victory over Guatemala on April 28.


Back-to-back braces

Mike Seerey pulled off that rare feat during a 16-day period in 1972. He struck twice in a 2-1 win over Guatemala in Miami on April 25, 1972 and two more times in a 2-2 draw with Mexico on May 10, 1972.

 

Bobby Convey duplicated that achievement during a three-day span in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2004. He scored two goals in a 4-3 triumph over Panama on Feb. 3, 2004 before finding the net twice again in a 2-0 win over Panama on Feb. 5, 2004.


Most games as goalkeeper

Brad Friedel managed to play every minute of all 10 qualifying matches leading up to the 1992 Olympics, an American record. He registered an 8-1-1 mark with a 1.20 goals-against average and three shutouts. That included a seven-game winning streak and a nine-match unbeaten streak.

 

Shep Messing had the second-most games with nine in the 1972 qualifying competition, followed by David Vanole with six in the 1988 campaign for the Seoul Olympics.

 

Most consecutive games as goalkeeper

Brad Friedel also holds this mark with 10 appearances. Shep Messing is next with nine consecutive matches.

 

Most shutouts

Brad Friedel recorded three clean sheets during the qualifying run for Barcelona 1992. 

 

Longest shutout streak

Adin Brown and Tim Howard combined for three consecutive clean sheets in Hershey, Pa. In 2000.

 

Brown started it with the USA's 3-0 win over Honduras on April 21. Howard continued it in a scoreless draw with Canada on April 25 and Brown was back in the nets for a 4-0 victory over Guatemala on April 28.


FUN FACTS


The Nanchoff brothers

Now, here's a rarity - brothers scoring goals in a qualifier. It happened in the 5-0 win over Bermuda at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 6, 1979.

 

Louie Nanchoff scored the first goal in the 33rd minute. George, who came on for his younger brother later in the match, connected on a free kick in the 82nd minute.


An intriguing debut

After leading the U.S. to a fourth-place finish in the 1999 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand, much was expected of 18-year-old Landon Donovan. USA head coach Clive Charles held his prized pupil out of the qualifying competition until the semifinals and Donovan didn't disappoint. He bagged a brace in his debut, a 4-0 semifinal victory over Guatemala at Hersheypark Stadium on April 28, 2000 to clinch a berth at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.