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US 1-0 Brazil: Ten Years On- Keller’s masterpiece

Sunday marked the tenth anniversary of the US’ lone victory over Brazil. The match in Los Angeles was sparsely attended with under 13,000 at the Coliseum. Unlike the next several US-Brazil games on American soil (2001 in LA, 2003 in Miami, and 2007 in Chicago, the later two games I attended) the number of American fans pulling for Brazil in the crowd was minimal and the US performance reflected a desire to win a Continental Championship- the Gold Cup. Nonetheless, Brazil was a superior side much of the match. The young Ronaldinho who had figured inthe previous two Gold Cup matches in Miami strangely didn’t make the trip to L.A. (I’ve never figured out why) That left Romario and Edmundo as the key Brazilians to dispose of. Ronaldo did not come to the Tournament.

This game will forever be remembered for Preki’s 65th minute goal off his left foot (incidentally about 10 minutes after I called it a night and headed to bed, leaving my VCR running) but the real hero of the night was Kasey Keller. Keller’s performance was perhaps the best in the history of US Soccer, making 13 saves, some of them simply defying logic and gravity! Romario, one of the great footballers of our time turned to Keller after a save in the 48th minute and shook his hand. After the match Romario said, “It was an honor to be on the field with him.” A few years ago I caught up with Romario after a Miami FC match, while he was playing here. Romario didn’t know a great deal of English, but I did gather from his broken words that he still considers Keller’s performance one of the best he has ever seen in football.

Kasey Keller has often times been a contradiction. A savvy veteran goalkeeper who makes amateur mistakes. A team leader who sulked when he was bumped in favor of his longtime rival Brad Friedel prior to the 2002 World Cup. A keeper whose US career is marred by his lack of big victories in major competitions. (the three biggest US wins in FIFA competitions with Keller on the squad were all started by Friedel- the 1999  Confederations Cup win over Germany, the 2002 World Cup win over Portugal and the 2002 World Cup win over Mexico- in the case of the Germany game it is particularly unfortunate because Keller was the clear #1 at that time and Friedel just happened to start that game because Keller was banged up in the previous match against Brazil) and whose desire and willingness to play for his country at all costs (unlike Friedel) has often times rendered him a journeyman club keeper in the European game.

Kasey Keller should always be remembered for this one game above all. On that special night in Los Angeles, he wasn’t just the best keeper in the world: he was the best footballer on the planet.

The US Lineup vs Brazil: Gold Cup 1998
——————————————–Keller————————————————-

—————————Lalas————————-Pope————————————-

Burns————————————————————————————Agoos–

——————————————Harkes————————————————

Jones——————————————————————————-Hedjuk—–

—————————————-Moore—————————————————

———————-Wynalda  (Preki)——————–Wegerle (McBride)——————-

The US would go on to lose the final to Mexico 1-0, the last meaningful El Tri victory on US soil. Luis Hernandez’s 38th minute goal against the run of play would be blamed by some on Keller. But it was Keller who brought the US to the final in the first place, where unlike 1996 and 2003 Brazil’s watered down Gold Cup squad didn’t eliminate us from OUR continental championship.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

12 Responses to US 1-0 Brazil: Ten Years On- Keller’s masterpiece

  1. bruce says:

    i was there
    it was as good as the myth says it was
    actually it was better than that
    amazing night

  2. Pingback: Soccer » US 1-0 Brazil: Ten Years On- Keller’s masterpiece

  3. brittkamp says:

    I watched that game on tape-delay in Boston. We thought it was a practice game at first because of the empty stadium. My friend and I were just amazed by Keller and that left-footed masterpiece by Preki.

  4. bandeeto says:

    God bless Keller. May he have large male children.

  5. football detective says:

    I remember the game well, having watched it live on TV. Preki had already scored an almost identical goal v. Costa Rica in the group stages.

    I was at the final v. Mexico with around 90,000 others. The Hernandez goal was Lalas’ fault for losing his mark.

  6. ivebeenrobbened says:

    You got me all misty whilst tucked-in to my humble lunch. Thanks alot mate! You rock double k.

  7. Kartik says:

    A footnote on Keller: he was frozen completely out of the US setup during Bora Milutinovic’s tenure. Tony Meola was the clear US #1 at the time but when Meola had to step away from the National Team due to personal reasons after the 1994 World Cup, Bora went through Brad Friedel, Jurgen Sommer, Marcus Hahnehman, and Zack Thornton until he was fired. Keller was not called back to the US squad until Steve Sampson was named the head coach in the summer of 1995, more than four years after his last US appearance. Nine goalkeepers had played for the US in the period between Keller’s appearances.

  8. Mike says:

    10 years, wow. If we’re reminiscing, I’ve been to a few memorable internationals at Foxboro that stay with me to this day, including the U.S.A.’s 2-0 win over England in 1993 Alexi Lalas actually scored a goal if memory serves); I also was at the ’94 World Cup match between Argentina and Greece (Maradona’s last goal for Argentina and three from Batistuta); and last summer’s friendly between Brazil and Mexico, an atmosphere that rivaled the World Cup match I saw.
    http://startingeleven.blogspot.com/

  9. Kartik says:

    Yup Mike all great games on US soil. I’ll be doing a retrospective of that england game in the future as well as some other matches.

    Lalas and Dooley both scored in that England game off set pieces if my memory doesn’t fail me. I also recall Fernando Clavijo being simply outstanding at the back snuffing out the English attack all game long.

  10. Three Lions says:

    Wow, a single win over Brazil. You must be sp proud, muppets!

  11. RZ says:

    This was one of the best days in the history of US Soccer. Unfortunately in 1998 we peaked way too soon beating them, winning at Austria looking solid in the 3-6-1 until that Iran game. Even in the first game of the World Cup we played well against Germany but was unlucky. But that Iran game disrupted the psyche of US Soccer for years to come.

  12. Three Lions,

    I guess you must be so proud of your spelling then?

    Besides, when’s the last time the English beat Brazil?

    The only one sounding like a muppet…oh it’s you!

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