By Michael Lewis
Today, April 30, is the 31st anniversary of goalkeeper David Vanole’s late in a World Cup qualifying match against Costa Rica in St. Louis. The USA held a 1-0 lead at the time.
After Bob Gansler had been named the new head coach, succeeding Lothar Osiander over the winter, his first two matches were against Costa Rica.
Here is how I described the game and save in my 1994 edition of World Cup Soccer:
Gansler and the U.S. got off on the wrong foot on April 16, 1989, dropping a 1-0 decision to Costa Rica in San Jose, Costa Rica. Midfielder Gilberto Rhoden scored the only goal 14 minutes into the match before 26,271 at Estadio Nacional.
“We didn’t play that well,” U.S. captain and sweeper Mike Windischmann said. “There’s not really excuses to be made.”
Exactly two weeks later, the Americans exacted their revenge in a 1-0 victory at the St. Louis Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo., but it was not without its drama.
First, they waited until the 72nd minute to score — midfielder Tab Ramos fired a shot from just outside the top of the penalty area that glanced off a defender’s foot and into the corner of the net.
Second, Costa Rica had two apparent goals, both shot by midfielder Hector Marchena, called back by Honduran referee Rodolfo Meija Martinez. In the eighth minute, Marchena’s goal was called back before of an offside call, and in the 77th, his diving header was disallowed because of a handball.
And with time running out in the match, U.S. goalkeeper David Vanole raced off his goal line to meet a cross and then let the ball slip through his hands. Defender Steve Trittschuh, covering Vanole’s back on the goal line, stopped the resulting shot by Alvaro Solano with his hands and a penalty kick was whistled.
Vanole, benched in the San Jose match, tried his best to disrupt the penalty-kick shooter, defender Mauricio Montero.
“I tried to psyche the guy, but he wouldn’t look at me, and maybe his not looking meant I had him,” said Vanole, who walked up and stood in front of Montero before the Costa Rican took the shot. “I felt I knew exactly what he’d do, and the ball came at me like a pumpkin. It was huge. It was probably coming at me at hundred miles an hour. It was in slow motion to me.”
Montero’s poor attempt was hit straight on, and Vanole did not have to move too far to block it, sending the overflow crowd of 8,500 into a frenzy.
As it turned out, Vanole didn’t play at the 1990 World Cup, but was the biggest cheerleader for the team at Italia ’90. Man, talk about a team player.
Vanole passed away at the age of 43 in 2007.