by: Garret Heinrich (@GarretHeinrich)
U.S. Soccer is slowly but surely moving its way to becoming a World Soccer power. They aren’t there yet. I’m not sure when they are going to get there, but the 15-year institution of a more European-style development academy is proving dividends for the squad. After Sunday Night’s big 1-1 draw in Mexico for World Cup Qualifying on the back of Michael Bradley’s Golazo, I thought it’d be good to look back and figure out what were the top goals for the USMNT in the last 17 years.
I’m only counting the last 17 years because the USA was still mostly depending on colleges to develop players until the late 1990’s. Until Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley stormed onto the scene as 20-year-old stars in 2002, heading to Europe as a teenager to train and play wasn’t even a thought. Now it is the best way for US Born players to become National Team stars and I think the game for the Men’s national team has only really grabbed a foothold in this country since 2000.
Here are the top 5 goals for US Soccer since 2000. These are a mix of both, skill and importance to the game of soccer in the USA.
5. Landon Donovan Goal vs. Mexico – 2002
The original Dos-A-Cero for the USA was capped off by this beauty of a goal from Landon Donovan. (:47). Not only was the run by Donovan perfect but this goal helped continue the young player’s progression to being the best player the United States ever had on their team. The USA went on to the World Cup Quarterfinals to lose 1-0 Germany and haven’t quite reclaimed that level of success in the World Cup. This was one of the first goals I really remember where I was and what it felt like as a die-hard USA soccer fan.
4. Jermaine Jones vs Portugal – 2014
This goal stands out to me more for its quality than its significance. However, I do think it was significant enough for the dual citizenship players that head man Jurgen Klinsmann brought in when he took over after the 2010 World Cup. Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler were the three big German-Americans that Klinsmann brought in to make an impact and Jones’ goal solidified that strategy as something that can help the United States. While the USA is better and better with young US Born players, the team can’t ignore the dual citizens it can bring in to help the national team and Jones is a beloved figure of the USMNT now, even as his career is on the decent.
3. Michael Bradley’s Golazo vs. Mexico – 2017
This is probably a recency bias placement on my part. Bradley’s goal was amazing. It was one of the more technical goals you’ll see. It’s also something we expected out of Captain America four of five years ago and not as much in the two of three years. Bradley’s goal shows that when he’s in the right position he’s much more effective, and can do some wondrous things. It also was important because it got the USA a much-needed point in Azteca (they’d only done that twice before Sunday night). That point could be the make or break point for an automatic World Cup bid. If that is the case, this goal will cement itself in the top five of USMNT goals of the 2000’s because of its beauty and its importance.
2. Brian McBride vs. Portugal – 2002
This goal rises a bit higher than the Donovan goal from 2002 because I feel like this goal is the goal that put the USA on the map as a team that can really compete on the international level. The USA would need this goal as well, barely holding off Portugal 3-2 in that game to kick off the group stage. It was a typical McBride goal too (with the head). That guy had a nose for goal and was one of the best lone strikers the USA has ever had. McBride played his heart out in three World Cups and this was his shining moment (except maybe his bloody face against Italy in 2006). This is a goal that put USA on the international map.
1. Landon Donovan vs. Algeria – 2010
If Brian McBride’s goal against Portugal helped show the world USA soccer could play with the big boys and would for years to come, Donovan’s goal to save the 2010 World Cup for the United States is the goal that put the USMNT on the American sports fan radar. The 2010 World Cup saw packed bars all over America to watch the USA play and when Donovan buried the rebound from Clint Dempsey’s shot the celebrations became as big as the goal itself. It made people not paying attention to soccer in America start to pay attention.
In the seven years since then, the USMNT has come leaps and bounds (albeit a bit slower than many of us have hoped, thanks, Jurgen.) and looks poised to have a young squad to captivate even more of America. There will be goals that knock all five of these goals off this list. It might be in the next 2 years, might take 10 years, but the United States is getting ready to make some noise in the soccer world. The U-20 team made a solid Quarterfinals run at the World Cup this past month. Some of the youth on that team will make an impact on the senior team. Many of those players are already playing with top clubs in the world. Some of them will get their first peak at the senior team in this Summer’s Gold Cup. Start paying attention, because in 10 years you might be arguing with some 20-something USA Soccer Fan who tells you about how Christian Pulisic’s game-winning World Cup Quarterfinal winner in the 80th minute is the biggest goal in USMNT history and you’ll have to remind him of some things that came before him. But we can only hope that future comes true and these kids live to their potential, especial Pulisic.
What goals am I missing? Let me know @GarretHeinrich