U.S. Soccer
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2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Final Round

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My Mexico Moment: Oguchi Onyewu Remembers the Stare Down

Oguchi Onyewu’s first Mexico moment isn’t one he remembers fondly.

Entering a final round World Cup Qualifying match on March 27, 2005, the promising young defender with only two caps to his name was handed his toughest test to date when then-head coach Bruce Arena elected to start him in central defense in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s quadrennial visit to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

“You hear the stories about Azteca, but you can’t quite grasp it until you’re in it,” Onyewu told ussoccer.com. “The altitude in the stadium, the fans and the atmosphere plays an even bigger part in making it one of the toughest places to play in the world.”

Partnering with Gregg Berhalter on the back line, the 6-4 center back was also given the unenviable task of marking Mexico’s all-time leading goal scorer Jared Borgetti. The veteran forward, known for his aerial prowess, broke free from Onyewu in the 30th minute to deliver the hosts the opening goal. Beyond his goal, Borgetti gave Onyewu fits most of the match, helping Mexico to a 2-1 win while providing the budding U.S. center back a difficult lesson in World Cup Qualifying.

“Borgetti is a mainstay in Mexican soccer history. He got a goal and unfortunately rained on my parade. It was a definite eye-opener for my first USA-Mexico game at Azteca Stadium.”

Oguchi Onyewu battles Jared Borgetti in 2005 World Cup Qualifier vs. Mexico

Despite the loss, the U.S. cruised through “The Hex” that year, winning its next four matches. Onyewu appeared in two of those wins – a 2-0 victory three days later against Guatemala and 1-0 shutout against Trinidad & Tobago that August – and picked up even more international seasoning that summer by helping the U.S. lift the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup. 

Those results had the MNT riding a nine-match unbeaten streak heading into September’s rematch against Mexico in Columbus. With both teams making quick work of their qualifying opponents, a win for either side that night meant they would be the first from CONCACAF to punch a ticket to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Putting the bigger picture aside, the rematch had personal meaning for Onyewu.   

“After the first game and our loss I definitely was looking forward to the home game in Columbus,” he said. “It was about redemption for myself, but also to rectify the result that we didn’t get in Mexico City. I was extremely focused, as well as everyone else on our team, but I definitely was not about to let Borgetti get the better of me two times around.”

In order to do that, Onyewu focused his efforts on physically frustrating Borgetti from the first whistle and set the tone for the one-on-one clash in the ninth minute. A ball played for Borgetti up the left flank saw him immediately shadowed by Onyewu. The two grappled down the touch line before Carlos Batres blew his whistle to indicate a free kick.

While a foul was committed by Onyewu, it also served to get under Borgetti’s skin, with the veteran forward immediately popping up to throw verbal jabs at the towering defender.

What happened next has become one of the most iconic moments in the USA-Mexico rivalry.

With Borgetti animated in his frustrations toward his marker, Onyewu didn’t respond. Instead, he chose to kindly brush aside the Mexico forward’s protests with an intimidating look that has come to be known in U.S. Soccer circles as “The Stare Down”.

“Obviously in that moment, it never was my objective for that stare to become as big as it has,” Onyewu said. “It’s just one of those moments in the game, and it was such a physical battle between him and I.

“What I remember is that I knocked him down, he got up and he looked like he was going to do something to me and I was really hoping he would. I don’t know what would have happened next, but I was expecting something would have happened. I’m just staring at him like, ‘Either do something or don’t do something.’ I guess that image is forever imprinted in U.S. Soccer history. That image itself speaks of the whole subject of that game in Columbus, Ohio against Mexico.”

The moment sent a message to Borgetti that the match would be altogether different from March’s encounter at Azteca. At the other end of the field, Onyewu's header off the left post setup Steve Ralston's go-ahead goal in the 53rd minute before DaMarcus Beasley added the second five minutes later. Onyewu indeed gained redemption as his play on both sides of the ball earned him Man of the Match honors. 

And while a victory against Mexico always provides a reason to celebrate, bigger party plans were in order that night as the U.S. booked its spot at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

“We had confirmed our berth in the World Cup and we were just celebrating and happy,” Onyewu said. “I think that’s the only thing that was on our minds: the fact that we accomplished our goal and we had something even bigger to look forward to.” 

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U.S. Tops Panama 3-0 in Panama City in World Cup Qualifier

PANAMA CITY, Panama (June 8, 2005) — The U.S. Men’s National Team recorded a resounding 3-0 victory on Wednesday evening against Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, further entrenching the team’s bid for a berth in the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006. The 3-0 win was the second of the week for the U.S. in World Cup qualifying and came courtesy of goals from Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan and Brian McBride (video).

The victory improves the U.S. to 4-1-0 halfway through qualifying, and places them in second place in their six-team group with 12 points, just one behind Mexico’s 13. With Mexico defeating Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 tonight at home, the gap between the U.S. and fourth place (the qualifying cutoff point) was widened to eight points after Costa Rica downed Guatemala, 3-2 at home.

“We are the first team in this cycle to beat Panama at home,” said U.S. Manager Bruce Arena immediately following the game. “As critical as we are sometimes of our performances, getting a result like that is exceptional. The first goal was big, the second goal was terrific, and then Kasey Keller once again was tremendous. In most game reports, that will go unnoticed, but those three saves were tremendous. Overall, we did what we had to do. The back line played very well and we scored opportunistic goals.”

Carlos Bocanegra opened up the scoring after just six minutes for the U.S., heading home a powerful shot off the hands of goalkeeper Donald Gonzalez and off the underside of the crossbar after a well-placed corner from Landon Donovan. The goal was the sixth of the high-scoring defender’s national team career.

"I just got up and got high on the ball and put it in," said Bocanegra. "It was a big goal, especially in a hostile environment. We knew we had to go and get goals and force them to chase the game. We got really confident after the third goal, but we knew anything could happen. We didn't want to have a repeat of Saturday (where the U.S. struggled early in the second half against Costa Rica)."

After setting up Bocanegra’s opening goal, Donovan tallied himself in the 20th minute. On the goal, Steve Ralston stole a ball on the right flank and raced down the field hitting a near-post cross to a streaking Donovan 10 yards from the goal. Donovan was able to rise above Panama’s Felipe Baloy and curl a header just inside the far post for a 2-0 lead.

"I just put the ball in," said Ralston on his assist. "I don't know how he got to it, but that was an amazing header."

For Donovan, the game’s opening goal and assist continued his torrid streak of having scored at least one point in 12 of the USA’s 13 World Cup qualifying games on the road to Germany 2006. Donovan’s scoring pace in high-profile qualifying matches is unrivaled in the history of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

The third U.S. goal came after an intense 20 minutes of pressure from Panama and effectively killed the game for the United States going into the second half. On the goal that iced the game, McBride was fouled in the 40th minute, giving the U.S. a free kick from 35 yards out. Donovan's cross into the area was powered out of the penalty area, rolling to Frankie Hejduk 30 yards from goal, where he hit a low ball that was cleared errantly by Panama defender Felipe Baloy. The poor touch landed at McBride's feet 12 yards from goal, and while leaning back, the USA’s second all-time leading scorer managed a left-footed shot that caught Gonzalez off-guard and hit the inside of the net on the right side of the goal, giving the U.S. a 3-0 advantage.

"That is a great percentage, we will take that any time," said Ralston about the USA's three goals on four shots in the first half. "The first two goals were really huge, and after that we were able to sit back a little bit and ride it out and come up and take our chances on counterattacks. They were still a very dangerous team. Kasey made three great saves so we knew that at 3-0, they were still dangerous."

With their goals, McBride and Donovan continue to move up the USA’s all-time scoring chart, with McBride now sitting on 28 all-time goals (six behind Eric Wynalda for the top spot). Donovan’s tally moved him ahead of Bruce Murray into fourth place all by himself with 22 goals, just two behind Joe-Max Moore’s career totals. Additionally, McBride now has nine qualifying goals all-time (tied with Stewart for the U.S. lead), while Donovan now has seven (tied with Eddie Johnson for third all-time).

"We can't think about it," said McBride referring to the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the USA's strong qualifying position. "It is nice. It is good that we've put some wins together now. We got three points and we just need to continue to do that. Two wins from now, we'll be OK, but until then, we'll just think about the next game."

The saves by Keller that Arena referred to in his post-match comments came in a bang-bang stretch with the U.S. leading 2-0 midway through the first half. In the 26th minute sequence, Julio Medina hit a cross into the penalty area where Roberto Brown powered a header pegged for the right corner that Keller sprawled to his left to save.

On the first rebound, Baloy was lurking at the far post and slammed a shot toward goal that Keller stuffed from five yards out. The rebound of Baloy’s attempt then popped into the air where Brown’s second shot was headed sharply from three yards out, where Keller somehow sprung from the ground into its path to not only stop the attempt, but snare the shot in his hands. The sequence of three brilliant saves for Keller took all of five seconds.

For Keller, the shutout was the 39th in his 81-game U.S. MNT career and his 17th in 29 World Cup qualifying appearances. The goalkeeper also has three straight qualifying shutouts and a shutout streak of 327 minutes.

The only bad news for the U.S. on the evening came when defender Eddie Pope picked up his second yellow card in the 10th minute and Frankie Hejduk picked up his second in the 84th minute. Both will have to sit out the USA’s next qualifier on Aug. 17 against Trinidad & Tobago in East Hartford, Conn. On the night, Pope was making his 30th appearance in World Cup qualifying for the U.S., tying him with Earnie Stewart and Cobi Jones for an all-time U.S. best.

Lost in the shuffle of the dominating win was the fact that the victory for the U.S. marked just the fifth time in 17 World Cup qualifiers in Central America that the U.S. was victorious.

Following tonight’s game, the U.S. takes a short break in advance of the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which kicks off for the team against Cuba on July 7 in Seattle. The U.S. also plays Canada on July 9 in Seattle and Costa Rica on July 12 in Foxboro, Mass., as part of Group B action. The 12-team Gold Cup runs through July 24, with the semifinals and finals set for Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The U.S. resumes the second half of their FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with consecutive home games against Trinidad & Tobago on Aug. 17 in East Hartford, Conn., and against Mexico on Sept. 3 in Columbus, Ohio.

-- U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report --

Match-up: USA vs. Panama
Date: June 8, 2005
Competition: FIFA World Cup qualifier – CONCACAF
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernandez – Panama City, Panam
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. CT
Attendance: 17,000 (est.)
Weather: 83 degrees, very humid

Scoring Summary:   1    2   F
Panama                     0   0    0
USA                          3   0    3

Scoring:
USA – Carlos Bocanegra (Landon Donovan) 6th minute.
USA – Landon Donovan (Steve Ralston)  20.
USA – Brian McBride (unassisted)  40.

Lineups:
USA: 18-Kasey Keller; 6-Steve Cherundolo, 23-Eddie Pope (3-Gregg Berhalter, 86), 4-Carlos Bocanegra, 3-Frankie Hejduk; 14-Steve Ralston, 25-Kerry Zavagnin, 17-Pat Noonan (15-Bobby Convey, 81); 10-Landon Donovan, 20-Brian McBride (Capt.), 7-DaMarcus Beasley (8-Clint Dempsey, 63)
Subs not used: 1-Marcus Hahnemann, 11-Conor Casey, 19-Clyde Simms, 16-Josh Wolff
Head Coach: Bruce Arena

PAN: 1-Donaldo Gonzalez; 5-Felipe Baloy, 2-Amilcar Henriquez (7-Engin Mitre, 75), 16-Joel Jimenez (13-Joel Solanilla, 39), 4-Jose Anthony Torres (Capt.); 6-Gabriel Gomez, 10-Julio Medina; 8-Alberto Blanco, 11-Roberto Brown, 9-Jose Garces, 15-Ricardo Phillips (18-Luis Tejada, 39)
Subs not used: 12-Jaime Penedo, 14-Gustavo Avila, 17-Neftali Diaz, 19-Blas Perez
Head Coach: Jose Hernandez

Stats Summary:    USA     PAN
 Shots                      9        10
 Saves                      3        3
 Corner Kicks            4        6
 Fouls                      15       11
 Offside                     0        11

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Eddie Pope (caution)               10th minute.
USA – Carlos Bocanegra (caution)      26.
PAN – Felipe Baloy (caution)              51.
USA – Pat Noonan (caution)               70.
USA - Frankie Hejduk (caution)           84.
PAN - Gabriel Gomez (caution)           87,

Officials:
Referee:  Mauricio Navarro (CAN)
1st Asst.:  Simon Fearn (CAN)
2nd Asst.:  Zoran Kristo (CAN)
Fourth Official:  Silvio Petrescu (CAN)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match:  Carlos Bocanegra

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MNT Jun 9, 2005

Schedule

Results

Date Matchup Result Venue Attendance Goal Scorers
2-0 W Gillette Stadium; Foxborough, Mass. 9,192 Martino, Twellman
0-3 L Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; San Jose, Costa Rica 30,000 --
0-0 D Estadio Mateo Flores; Guatemala City, Guatemala 27,000 --
MNT vs Mexico 2-0 W Columbus Crew Stadium; Columbus, Ohio 24,685 Ralston, Beasley
1-0 W Rentschler Field; East Hartford, Conn. 25,488 McBride
3-0 W Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City, Panama 17,000 Bocanegra, Donovan, McBride
3-0 W Rice-Eccles Stadium; Salt Lake City, Utah 40,586 Donovan (2), McBride
2-0 W Legion Field; Birmingham, Alabama 31,624 Johnson, Ralston
1-2 L Estadio Azteca; Mexico City, Mexico 110,000 Lewis
2-1 W Queens Park Oval; Port of Spain n/a Johnson, Lewis
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