Work in Sports
'The genesis of American soccer'
Caligiuri's goal 10 years ago sent U.S. to 1990 World Cup
Posted: Saturday November 20, 1999 06:53 PM
BOSTON (AP) -- The goal came out of nowhere -- a long shot off Paul Caligiuri's left foot in front of a packed and hostile stadium in Trinidad. And it brought U.S. soccer from out of nowhere, too.
Before that goal, the Americans were wondering if the right to stage the 1994 World Cup would stripped from the United States.
"We were in jeopardy of losing it because we weren't considered a soccer nation," Caligiuri said Friday, the 10th anniversary of the goal that put the United States in its first World Cup in 40 years.
"I think that moment in soccer history solidified our bid to host the event," he said. "And it enabled us to be here today."
Caligiuri's Los Angeles Galaxy will play D.C. United on Sunday in the fourth Major League Soccer title game. More than 40,000 tickets have been sold for the 60,000-seat Foxboro Stadium; there were 34,643 tickets sold for the inaugural title game in 1996, played there in a torrential downpour.
The MLS traces its roots to the excitement that followed the '94 World Cup, which was successfully held in the United States. And that brings us back to Trinidad.
Few expected the Americans to win in Port of Spain in front of 35,000 raucous fans -- 5,000 more than capacity -- who filled the stadium 5 1/2 hours before kickoff. The next day already had been declared a national holiday, win or lose.
"We had to score a goal and win the game" to advance to the World Cup, Caligiuri said.
The United States hadn't made it since 1950.
Caligiuri remembered the noisy crowd was a sea of red shirts, and the fact that the U.S. offense had been frustrated at every turn. And when he got the ball in the 31st minute, he wasn't thinking about scoring.
"It was so unexpected," he said.
He took the ball off his chest and beat a defender, lofting a 30-yard, left-footed shot that curled inside the right post, "making the dream become reality," Caligiuri said.
"When the shot went into the net, ... that was the genesis of American soccer," said D.C. United defender Jeff Agoos, who was playing in college at Virginia in 1989 and watched the game on TV.
The victory sent the U.S. team to Italy, where it lost to Czechoslovakia, Italy and Austria by a combined 8-2, finishing 23rd in the 24-nation field, ahead of only the United Arab Emirates.
But the buzz from the tournament didn't die.
"I don't think on that particular day everybody knew what effects that goal would have," United coach Thomas Rongen said. "Looking back, it had a dramatic effect on the sport in this country."
And U.S. soccer fans have Caligiuri to thank.
"It's like a pebble going in the water. It's a little bit of a splash that causes huge currents," Agoos said. "But look at us now. That goal basically created all of this."