Best Team Performance of Decade: 2002 World Cup vs Portugal
Without Claudio Reyna and Clint Mathis the US took the field against a Portuguese side making its first World Cup appearance in sixteen years. Still, Portugal had been outstanding at the Euro 2000 tournament and boasted a collection of world class players including Luis Figo, perhaps at this moment in time, the world’s best footballer.
Coming into the match the US was fighting the perception of being one of the weakest sides at Korea/Japan 2002.
The US did however, have Ajax’s John O’Brien healthy and he made all the difference. Not only did O’Brien score a great goal in the 4th minute to get the US off and running but he helped to control the tempo of the match as well from an advanced central midfield role.
Bruce Arena’s hunch of starting Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley worked out very well as did the Pablo Mastroeni’s surprising start. Frankie Hejduk, playing on the left side of defense was brilliant the entire World Cup.
The moment of the match game came courtesy of Brian McBride’s diving header after a brilliant run and cross by Tony Sanneh. It was a move perfected when the duo played together with the Milwaukee Rampage of the A-League (Now USL-1).
The second half saw a furious Portugal comeback, but the US held on for a defining victory.
Honorable Mention: 2001 vs Mexico, 2002 vs Mexico, 2006 vs Italy, 2009 vs Spain
Worst Team Performance of the Decade: 2009 Gold Cup vs Mexico
The US entered the Gold Cup Final in 2009 having not lost to Mexico on American soil in over ten years. While Bob Bradley had selected an experimental team for the competition, the selected US team had until that point in time featured in more qualifying games cumulatively this cycle than the Mexican side that Javier Aguirre selected that day. In fact, the side that took the field for El Tri, featured several players who had NEVER been capped prior to the summer of 2009. Every single US starter had been capped prior to the summer other than Jay Heaps.
After a level first half, the US collapsed. Continuing a 2009 trend of giving up second half goals in bunches, the US conceded five goals with no answer against a Mexican “B” side. This result also allowed Mexico to overcome its psychological hurdle of winning on US soil versus the US team.