Fifteen years ago today in Foxboro, MA the US National Team recorded one of its most important pre World Cup 1994 victories with a 2-0 win over England. For me personally as a US Soccer supporter, this was the match that proved to both myself and other die in wool US supporters that we could compete at a high level internationally. England was not the most formidable side as injuries to Stuart Pearce, and Paul Gascoigne cut England’s quality substantially. The match was also significant in that Paul Ince became the first black captain of the Three Lions on this day.
The US was very tentative the first thirty minutes in many ways contrary to the first third of the match last month at Wembley. However, after minute 30 as the US confidence grew, England began to crack at the back thanks largely to the absence of Pearce. Gary Palister and Carlton Palmer had horrific matches for the Three Lions as the US counter attack in the 5-3-2 became more and more lethal as the match dragged on.
In Tab Ramos the US had in 1993 the critical linkup player the national team seems to lack in 2008. The Uruguayan born Ramos brought a Latin flair and creativity virtually unknown at the time to Northern European soccer and as the match wore on it was obvious England had no answer for him. Graham Taylor tried to counter by bringing on Ian Wright in minute 34 to counter the flow of play which was favoring the US.
Nonetheless in minute forty one Lee Dixon beat Mike Lapper down the left side and received a cross from David Batty. Dixon hit the shot cleanly but it bounced off the post, leading to a quick US counter attack culminating in a wonderful piece of Tab Ramos skill in which he prevented the ball from passing over the end line and then found Tom Dooley making a run into the England 18′, and finishing the cross with a header which Chris Woods didn’t have a chance to react to. From that point forward The Three Lions seemed lost. Even when they pushed forward and created chances, Tony Meola was able to deal with the danger.
In second half, substitute defender Alexi Lalas who was brought in the match essentially to mark Paul Ince out of the game late scored on a header off a corner kick. The corner had been set up by an Earnie Stewart breakaway which Chris Woods had a hard time dealing with, and just got broken up at the last moment by Tony Dorigo. The US counter attack spurred late by a then young Cobi Jones and Stewart killed the match for England as it became obvious they neither had the pace nor the skill to contend with the U.S. on that day.
At the back Fernando Clavijo and John Doyle clogged up any space Ian Wright, John Barnes or Les Ferdinand could find. England went on to collapse in World Cup qualifying and miss USA 94. Graham Taylor was sacked and continues to this day to be a dirty word with many England fans. But at the time of this match England was still in a qualifying position even though they were being absolutely savaged by the press back home. Losing to the U.S. as can be imagined furthered the press hostility against the England team to unhealthy levels which in my opinion helped contribute to the England’s non qualification for USA 94.
For the US this match gave the Americans the belief they could play with anyone. Subsequently the US gave Germany and Italy real matches in friendlies and then of course in the World Cup the US advanced to the knock out stages of the event for the first time since 1930.
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