The 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal in Miami featured a rematch of a Confederations Cup group game from a month earlier. Brazil and the United States had varying approaches to this tournament: The USA wanted to win the event and again qualify for the Confederations Cup while Brazil was bloodletting a promising group of youngsters who have since become household names.
As I sat in the lower bowl, of Miami’s since demolished Orange Bowl, the crowd of over 35,000 was fairly split. As always Brazil had fans, but it seemed more Colombians and Peruvians had turned out to root against Brazil and there was a small contingent of pure USA fans. But thankfully, I did not get the abuse for wearing US Soccer apparel into the stadium, which I had received earlier in the year during a friendly against Argentina. For that match virtually no US fans showed up.
Three and a half years earlier in the Gold Cup, I had been at a US game in the same stadium with over 50,000 people and even fewer US fans, so I suppose a small US fan turnout was better than most recent outings at the Orange Bowl.
The US held its own during the first half, fielding this lineup.
Cory Gibbs, who is from South Florida, had a decent sized cheering section as did Miami Fusion great Pablo Mastroeni.
An early injury to Brian McBride brought Clint Mathis, the player every US fan wanted to see onto the Orange Bowl pitch.
In the 62nd minute, Carlos Bocanegra got his head onto a fantastic corner by Eddie Lewis, and gave the US a 1-0 lead. The US fought valiantly, defending well from this point on but it seemed like a Brazilian goal was inevitable.
The US made two defensive minded subs, bringing on DaMarcus Beasley and Richard Mulrooney to slow the Brazilian attack but to no avail.
Still, As Brazil missed chance after chance it became possible the US would hang on. But finally in the waning moments, Kaka scored a spectacular goal and we were off the extra time.
Recall that in 2003, FIFA had not yet rescinded the Golden Goal rule for extra time. Thus, when Cory Gibbs took a deliberate handball to stop a sure goal in the 100th minute, his sending off resulted in a PK to win the game for Brazil. Diego calmly took the penalty kick and Brazil was the victors.
Here is the starting XI Brazil fielded that day:
Gomez-Alex-Lucio-Maicon-Kaka-Diego-Julio Baptista-Paulo Almeida-Robinho-Adriano-Nilmar.
Brazil went on to lose the final to Mexico at Azteca three days later. The US won the third place game in Miami against Costa Rica, who was at the time managed by former US coach Steve Sampson.