Paul Caliguiri made a game-saving clearance off the goal line against Mexico. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
With the United States and Mexico preparing for their World Cup qualifying encounter in Mexico City June 11, FrontRowSoccer.com is looking back at some of the most memorable matches between these two archrivals. Today, we look back at a World Cup warm-up game in 1994.
What better way to prepare for the World Cup than to play at home in front of a huge crowd partisan that is to the visitors?
The U.S. National Team did exactly that only two weeks prior to the kickoff of USA ’94 as the Americans recorded a 1-0 triumph over Mexico before 91,123 spectators at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on June 4, 1994.
At the time, it was the largest crowd to watch the National Team on its home soil, besting the previous mark of 78,265 for an Olympic game at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif. However, after that World Cup, the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup and a 1996 international friendly, the crowd now ranks No. 5.
“You come onto the field in your own country and you get booed,” forward Eric Wynalda told The New York Times. “It’s weird.”
Like it or not, they would be the norm for any time the U.S. played the Mexicans in southern California.
Still, it was an impressive gathering. Forward Roy Wegerle supplied the offense with a goal, converting a pass from Wynalda in the 52nd minute. Paul Caligiuri provided the key defensive play and saving grace in the 88th minute as he headed away a cross that midfielder Ramon Ramirez chipped over goalkeeper Tony Meola and into the goalmouth.
“The defense played great, the best in six months,” Meola was quoted by the Times.
The Americans had been struggling finding goals and they did beat their archrivals.
“Psychologically, we can use this as a positive to build upon,” Caligiuri told the Washington Post. “But at the same time, until we play against Switzerland and until we can speak about a victory there, we really haven’t proven a lot.”
“It’s an important win, but it’s no victory,” U.S. coach Bora Milutinovic said. “In the World Cup, I hope to have a victory.”
In two weeks’ time the U.S. started its World Cup quest. The Americans finished 1-1-1 in their group, stunning Colombia, tying Switzerland and losing to Romania, avoiding probable embarrassment of becoming the first host country to fail to reach the second round of the World Cup. But their Cup journey ended there as they lost to eventual champion Brazil, 1-0.