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The USMNT Decade: Best and Worst


38056012 obriengoal 300x200 The USMNT Decade: Best and Worst

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.

As for the record book, it was the worst loss in a competitive match (friendlies excluded) by the USMNT since 1957, the worst loss overall (friendlies included) since 1964 and tied the 5-0 result in a friendly 1984 vs England. The US had plenty of bad teams between 1950 and 1990, and mostly solid performances since the early 1990s. But for one afternoon in time, the 2009 US team resembled the US teams from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Dishonorable Mention:  2001 vs Honduras, 2001 vs Costa Rica, 2002 vs Poland, 2006 vs Czech Republic

Best Individual Performance of the Decade: Clint Mathis vs Mexico 2001

Newer MLS and USMNT fans may not recall when Clint Mathis was a game changer. On one cold evening in Columbus, Mathis completely changed the complexion a critical World Cup qualifier. Clint Mathis was subbed into the match in the on first half when Captain Claudio Reyna suffered an injury. Along with his fellow Georgian Josh Wolff who was subbed in for the injured Brian McBride, Mathis took over the match.

The US scored two great team goals, both started by Mathis, and the midfield tempo changed completely once he entered the match. It would be eight years before Mexico came back to the US and defeated the United States. Mathis’ spectacular performance set the tone of the decade.

Honorable Mention:  John O’Brien vs Portugal 2002, Clint Mathis vs South Korea 2002  Claudio Reyna vs Germany 2002, Oguchi Onyewu vs Spian 2009

Player of the Decade: Claudio Reyna

Little debate needed here. When Reyna was healthy, he was a unique player in the history of the USMNT. A box to box midfielder who could win the ball and also hold it well, the player captained the US team while forging an incredibly successful European club career.

Reyna is a unique player in American soccer history. He also was the trailblazer who transformed the thinking of Americans on the European club scene from “hard working journeyman” to “leadership and quality.”

Honorable Mention:  Frankie Hejduk, Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Eddie Pope

Most Under Appreciated Players List

Frankie Hedjuk, Tony Sanneh,  Eddie Lewis, Josh Wolff, Chris Armas

US MNT Ultimate XI of the decade

Donovan——————McBride

—————Mathis—————-

Beasley—–Reyna—–Dempsey

—————O’Brien—————-

Hejduk——–Pope——Cherundolo

Honorable Mention:  Eddie Lewis, Oguchi Onyewu, Earnie Stewart, Michael Bradley, Josh Wolff, Pablo Mastroeni

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 →

8 Responses to The USMNT Decade: Best and Worst

  1. USA 2010 (formerly known as Kartik) says:

    Michael should not be included in the team of the decade yet.

  2. Tim says:

    Kartik, you and others show so much Frankie Hejduk love but why?

    He is totally unskilled, and reckless.

    The fact that he STILL plays for us tells me alot about our player development and talent level.

    The surfer dude Frankie has crosses he served in 1997 that still have not landed.

    Cherundolo making the starting 11 for the decade is also very telling to me about the state of things.

  3. Chris B says:

    Before people start piling on, I just want to say that for the most part I agree with you and you have done an excellent job wirh this list. I might..might have gone with the Czech game as the worst just due to the hype before the match.

  4. Ryan says:

    The ultimate XI will be leaking goals like a sieve.

  5. USA 2010 (formerly known as Kartik) says:

    ryan, that’s because he didn’t even include our best position. But ya, it’d fail even with a goalie.

  6. jmart says:

    your ultimate XI only has ten players…no GK.

    also, no keeper listed even as an honorable mention for the ultimate XI or even an individual performance honorable mention (2009 Howard v Spain anybody?, or Freidel 2002 WC (commanding performance combined with being the only keeper ever to save two PK’s in a WC).

    I mostly gauge terrible performances by the USMNT by how depressed I get after the loss. I second Chris B on getting spanked by the Czech Republic 3-0 in WC 2006 as the worst of the decade due to the amount of Wild Turkey consumed afterwards. The 2009 Gold Cup loss to Mexico only induced a couple the consumption of a couple Miller High Lifes.

  7. Seybold says:

    Good call on Reyna– he once played as a striker in a 4-0 win over Mexico, and played well. Very flexible.

    Good call on Sanneh as under-appreciated. He was superb in 2002, he should’ve been in the mix much sooner.

  8. Seybold says:

    Gotta agree with jmart about worst loss of the decade. The 0-5 was ugly but at least it wasn’t the full team, unlike the 2006 Czech Republic match. One match–heck, even the first 15 minute of the match (or 10? or 5?) and realizing we had no chance at all this World Cup…very depressing.

    Some hope was restored vs. Italy, but the feeling after that match was the worst of the decade.

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