Save by Kahn!
The match is still held up as the modern day heights scaled of the USMNT soccer program.
The World Cup? On location in Ulsan, Korea… Friday, June 21, 2002.
The match? USA vs. Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals. Tomorrow the 10-year anniversary will be used as a grand US Soccer timeline marker.
The US had swashbuckled it’s way through the group stages and laid waste to CONCACAF heavyweight Mexico to arrive at a match-up with the heavily favored Die Mannschaft
The favored German machine vs. the gritty Yanks didn’t disappoint.
The US controlled the tempo and pressed in this one, keeping up the intensity for nearly 70 minutes of the match while the last 20 or so went playground. The Germans appeared incredulous at the pressure from the States, but did not break–thanks partly to Kahn–and some non-pinpoint finishing from Landon Donovan who was still blow-drying his hair at the time.
The lone tally came in the 40th minute as Christian Ziege bent in a set piece and now-ESPN analyst Michael Ballack directed it home at the expense of Tony Sanneh. It was an anomalistic moment for Sanneh who was clearly the Man of the Match.
Sanneh played tremendous defense save that play, finishing with a double-digit count of dribbling-and-attacking forays, and directing a header wide of the west post in the US’s last true threatening moment.
However, it was neither Ballack’s or Sanneh’s play in the box that is the singular moment to remember. It was the 50th minute that provided one.
A gorgeous cross by Landon Donovan arrived at feet of Gregg Berhalter who directed it just inside the left post and past a diving Kahn.
GOA…no goal! German midfielder Torsten Frings–on location today at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston for the Reds vs. the Dynamo–was guarding his post and the ball struck his hand beyond the line and caromed out….all of this out of view of the refs and linesman.
The US would protest, but it would go unheard. (Apologies England and Ukraine–if any nation has the first rights to the gripe on goal line technology it’s the 50 States.)
Claudio Reyna played a terrific game in this one as well, showing some defensive feistiness and nearly dropping a Stankovic of a volley from the half-line after Kahn had come well beyond the box to knock away what looked to be a dangerous breakaway chance.
The US would fall 1-0, but the game signaled new respect for Americans. It signaled the coming out party of Donovan. Though not his best game that tournament, Brad Friedel would go on to have the best season ever for an American at Blackburn a little over a year later.
John O’Brien’s lore was christened in this tournament as well as Brian McBride showing how hold-up play is done.
What else do you remember?
Where were you for the match?
This from Chad of Upper90 soccer in Brooklyn, NY:
My parents were visiting me in Berlin, Germany at the time. We watched the game in a public viewing area. The build-up to the Iraq War was getting intense and Chancellor Schroeder had just come out strongly against the war: let’s just say Americans weren’t the most popular people in Europe at the time. We watched the game in neutral colors.
The handball happened. My Dad, who may have been watching the first soccer game of his life (outside of youth leagues), cried out BULLSH*T!
I looked at him incredulously – the last thing we needed was to create a scene as the Americans. He stewed and simmered. We all did. Man… where would American soccer be if we had gotten through?
An overachieving South Korea was all that stood between us and the Finale.