Today, the U.S. Men's National Team has a chance to earn enough points to advance to the second round of the 2014 World Cup. A win earns a berth and also puts them in a better position to take first in the group.
Let's look back at the last World Cup meeting between the two sides. On June 5, 2002, the U.S. played its first match of the 2002 World Cup, earning all three points against European powerhouse Portugal. It was a game that shocked the world and awoke many U.S. critics. It was a game that would pave the way for the U.S.'s best World Cup run since 1930. John O'Brien scored first, and the USMNT went on to tally two more before the half. As a D.C. United fan, it was the Brian McBride diving header goal that really stuck in my mind because the perfectly placed cross came from none-other than one of my favorite former DCU midfielders, Tony Sanneh.
But that was then, and today we head to battle, once again against Portgual who sits fourth in the FIFA world rankings. How confident do you feel today? Do you believe? Need to get jazzed? Watch this:
On Wednesday, June 16, I woke up antsy and nervous. The U.S. Men’s National Team would match up against Ghana later that day. Ghana: a team who has had our number for two World Cups now. Ghana: who dealt the final blow in 2006, and knocked us out once again in the round of 16 in 2010. Ghana: our kryptonite.
I went on a run to get the jitters out, but as game-time approached, my nerves were long gone. As a relatively young soccer nation, the U.S. has made great strides. We finished first in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, and have recently looked less like a team with something to prove and more like a nation that’s confident in its ability to compete with any team in the world.
As our national anthem played, I stood and sang my heart out at Arena das Dunas with 22,000 of my new American friends. I had no idea that the next 90 minutes might be some of the proudest of my life.
If you’re reading this, you probably watched the game, so I don’t need to give you a play-by-play. What struck me weren't the statistics; stats won’t win you games, let alone the World Cup. Last night, Ghana was the better team on paper. But while they won the possession battle; we came to win the war.
With veterans like Tim Howard, Damarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey on our roster, the U.S. had a leadership core working on field to implement Jurgen Klinnsman’s style of play. But to me, the fiercest competitors in the game were Jermain Jones and Kyle Beckerman. These two battled with heart and lead the team with discipline, playing as if this was the championship game. Jones seemed to be all over the field, involved in every big play. There were stretches where he looked like the only player who belonged out there. Beckerman never lost the ball and connected the field with his passing, staying composed when others weren’t.
The U.S. went into the match 13th in FIFA rankings and came out no longer the underdogs. We looked every bit like a team deserving of a top spot. Americans should be proud and confident— each game is just one step closer to the goal, and I, for one, am looking forward to the next step against Portugal.
Join D.C. United at Reston Town Center on Sunday, 6/22 to watch USA take on Portugal! Admission is FREE, details here.
Who've you got in 2014? Will Spain take another four years at the top? Will Brazil celebrate its sixth trophy lift? Does the US stand a chance?
Fill out your bracket in MLS' Brazil Bracket Challenge in the D.C. United fan group, where you will compete against fellow fans of the Black-and-Red as well as some of the players themselves! But it doesn't end there, the winner of the group has the chance to win a U.S. Men's National Team jersey and four tickets to D.C. United's home match on July 20.
How to Enter
- Register your bracket prior to the start of the World Cup on June 12
- Check back regularly to see your rank
- Follow the D.C. United players' brackets
Read: Full contest rules.