Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
From the opening match against Canada to their finale against Austria 22 matches later, the 2013 calendar year was certainly a memorable one for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
After an up-and-down 2012, the USMNT rebounded with a year that included historic victories against Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina, a Gold Cup title, and a victory over Mexico that helped earn the USMNT a trip to Brazil next year.
The 16 wins that the USMNT finished with as well as their .761 winning percentage were all-time highs, with new records in overall winning streak (12), home winning streak (12), and tying their record in points earned during the Hexagonal round (22).
Here’s a look at SBI’s top 10 USMNT matches of 2013:
10. USMNT vs. Honduras (Gold Cup semifinals), July 24
One could say that the summer of 2013 should be considered the “Summer of Landon”, as Landon Donovan put in a terrific Gold Cup campaign, including leading the USA to a 3-1 victory against Honduras in the Gold Cup semifinals. Coming off a game with one goal and three assists, Donovan scored twice against Honduras and set up Eddie Johnson’s opener as the U.S. booked their place in the Gold Cup final. The win was the USMNT’s tenth straight in all competitions.
9. USMNT vs. Panama (World Cup qualifying), Oct. 15
Heading into stoppage time, it looked very likely that Panama would finish ahead of Mexico in the Hexagonal, eliminating El Tri from World Cup contention. But two goals in the final four minutes of the match from Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson gave the USMNT not only a thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 victory in Panama City but also kept Mexico’s hopes alive for Brazil 2014.
8. USMNT vs. Panama (World Cup qualifying), June 11
Coming off a confidence-boosting 2-1 victory in Kingston, Jamaica, the USMNT traveled more than 3,200 miles to Seattle, Washington where they played in front of a USA-partisan crowd numbering 40,847. Backed by the supporters in the stands, the U.S. overcame the losses of Graham Zusi (suspension) and Jermaine Jones (injury) to defeat Panama, 2-0.
7. USMNT vs. Jamaica (World Cup qualifying), June 7
Prior to this match, the last time that the USMNT faced Jamaica at “The Office” saw the Reggae Boyz run away as 2-1 winners. This time around, the match looked like it would be headed for a draw before USA right back Brad Evans controlled a pass in the box, spun to his left, and placed a shot past Donovan Ricketts that gave the U.S. a 2-1 victory in stoppage time. It was also the USMNT’s first away win in the Hexagonal.
6. USMNT vs. Panama (Gold Cup final), July 28
Even though Mexico had been defeated in the semifinals by Panama, the USMNT were still faced with a difficult test in the Gold Cup final from Soldier Field in Chicago. After 68 minutes of scoreless soccer, Brek Shea came onto the field and within 60 seconds, tapped home a cross from Alejandro Bedoya to give the USA a 1-0 lead. The U.S. held off Panama for the final 21 minutes and won their fifth Gold Cup title.
5. USMNT vs. Mexico (World Cup qualifying), March 26
On the heels of the infamous “Snow Game” in Denver, the USMNT traveled to Mexico City with plenty of unknowns in the squad. Jermaine Jones was ruled out with an ankle injury while Matt Besler was about to partner with Omar Gonzalez is the U.S. defense in arguably the most difficult match of the Hexagonal campaign. Lo and behold, while it wasn’t the prettiest soccer, the USA held Mexico to an impressive scoreless draw at Estadio Azteca, giving the squad some more positive momentum heading into the busy summer schedule ahead.
4. USMNT vs. Costa Rica (World Cup qualifying), March 22
With the USMNT’s poor showing in Honduras in February and the Sporting News report from a number of unnamed players on the USMNT squad, a perfect storm had brewed for what could have been a disaster in snowy Denver. Despite the controversy waging in the stands by fans and the media alike and the snow falling on the USA and Costa Rica, the U.S. gutted out a 1-0 victory to help jump-start their qualification campaign.
3. USMNT vs. Germany (Friendly), June 2
In part of U.S. Soccer’s 100th anniversary celebrations, the USSF invited Germany for a friendly match in our nation’s capital. In front of a crowd of 47,359 at RFK Stadium, the USMNT shocked the shorthanded German squad, 4-3, with Clint Dempsey scoring twice and Jozy Altidore chipping in with a goal of his own. It was only the third time ever that the USA had beaten a team ranked either first or second in FIFA’s rankings.
2. USMNT vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina (Friendly), Aug. 14
Coming off an impressive summer that saw the USMNT go undefeated in June and July, Jurgen Klinsmann scheduled a match against the high-powered attack of Bosnia and Herzegovina to test his USMNT squad. Down 2-0 at halftime, the USA rallied with four goals in the second half, including an impressive hat-trick from Jozy Altidore, to defeat Bosnia and Herzegovina, 4-3, in Sarajevo.
1. USMNT vs. Mexico (World Cup qualifying), Sept. 10
With El Tri reeling from a 2-1 defeat at home to Honduras on Sept. 6 that spelled the end of Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s time as head coach, the USMNT put in a complete performance to defeat Mexico in Columbus once more by a score of 2-0. “Dos a Cero” continues to haunt El Tri, and soon after the match, the U.S. players learned that the win was enough to guarantee them an automatic qualification spot for the 2014 World Cup.
What did you think of SBI’s top ten USMNT matches of the year? Which games stood out the most to you? What will you remember most from 2013?
Share your thoughts below.