Watching the US Men's National Team qualifier in Trinidad and Tobago tonight, I can't help but remember the biggest moment in US soccer history. It also happens to be one of my earliest memories about watching soccer.
It was November 19, 1989, and I was an 8 year old soccer fan. The US was given no chance to qualify for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, but came into Trinidad needing a win to earn the last spot in the World Cup's 24 team field. Trinidad and Tobago could advance just by holding the score even at home.
Amazingly, 21 year old Paul Caligiuri knocked in an arcing shot from outside the box that found the right side of the net. That goal won the match for the US and sent the Americans to their first World Cup since 1950.
Almost 20 years later, it's hard to explain the state of US soccer in 1989. This was before the 1994 World Cup brought the world's best soccer to America. This was before the MLS made soccer highlights a regular part of Sportscenter. This was before the Internet, Fox Soccer Channel, and ESPN showing Euro matches. Soccer was a sport played by immigrants, little kids, and weirdos. Since then, there have been regular predicitions (all wrong) that soccer is the next breakthrough sport, but the progress it has made in this country since 1989 is amazing. For that, we can thank Paul Caligiuri.
Bonus points from the video:
- A young Bob Ley!
- Sportscenter before it got out of hand!
- Tony Meola!