Biggest "What-if" in USMNT history?

Discussion in 'USA Men' started by Ryan T Smith, Apr 6, 2024.

?

What's the biggest "What-if" moment in USMNT history?

  1. Torsten Frings' handball is called

    23 vote(s)
    62.2%
  2. US holds on in the '09 Confed Cup final

    5 vote(s)
    13.5%
  3. Wondo buries his chance

    6 vote(s)
    16.2%
  4. Pulisic scores early chance vs. Netherlands

    2 vote(s)
    5.4%
  5. John Harkes keeps it in his pants

    1 vote(s)
    2.7%
  1. Ryan T Smith

    Ryan T Smith Member

    Borussia Dortmund
    United States
    May 10, 2022
    So I was just taking a moment to relive some of our past moments of near-glory and I got to thinking about what could have been had certain things gone our way instead. These are the five that first came to my mind but feel free to offer up your own "what-if" scenario. A few notes on the 5 I picked:

    Torsten Frings: You all know the story. It's one of the most famous no-calls in USMNT history. US vs. Germany, 2002 quarterfinals. GGG's shot is kept out by the hand of Torsten Frings but referee Hugh Dallas does not award the US a penalty and Germany maintain their 1-0 lead for the rest of the match despite being outplayed. Of course, one could view the Frings no-calls as karma for the uncalled "Hand of JOB" in the Mexico game the round prior.

    '09 Confed Cup: After the historic upset of Spain, the USMNT found themselves in their first ever FIFA final, where they took the lead 2-0 against Brazil. Unfortunately, the 5 time world champions would ultimately come back to win 3-2 and deny the US their historic trophy.

    Wondo: This is the game that made Tim Howard a household name in the US, as he broke the World Cup record for saves in a match against Belgium in the Round of 16. Unfortunately, however, the US' best chance to reach the quarterfinals went begging as Chris Wondolowski horribly missed a golden opportunity from close range. The US would go on to lose 2-1 in extra time and would not play another World Cup game for 8.5 years.

    Pulisic: This is still fresh in all of our minds. In the early minutes of the RO16 game against the Netherlands, Christian Pulisic sees a chance fall for him which was saved by the Dutch goalkeeper. Minutes later, Memphis would score the opening goal and the Dutch would go on to win 3-1. Had Pulisic scored that chance to give the US the lead, would the game have turned out any differently?

    Harkes: In the lead up to France '98, "Captain for Life" John Harkes is abruptly cut from the World Cup squad. After 12 years of speculation and rumors, it is finally confirmed in 2010 that the reason for this was that he was engaging in an affair with star striker Eric Wynaldà's wife. This divided the locker room and led to a last place finish for the US. Had the affair not taken place, how much better could a more tight-knit US team have performed?

    So I ask you, Big soccer. What's the biggest "what-if" in USMNT history?
     
  2. Anderson11

    Anderson11 Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Club:
    Sporting Kansas City
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I have a hard time holding Wondo’s miss against him. Belgium failed to convert many chances as good or better that game. It doesn’t feel fair to Wondo that he gets so much hate over it.
     
    QuakeAttack, jaykoz3 and schrutebuck repped this.
  3. An Unpaved Road

    An Unpaved Road Member+

    Mar 22, 2006
    Club:
    --other--
    Mines’s not a specific moment but an alternate history. Donovan is still playing for the Galaxy in 2017 and is recalled to the NT after the brutal 0-2 hex start. He helps the team qualify and he and Beasley have one more run and play a role in the U.S. getting out of the group.
     
  4. superdave

    superdave Member+

    Jul 14, 1999
    VB, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Mine is that Davies doesn’t get in that damn car and Jermaine Jones is healthy in 2010.

    Not only were they good and great players respectively, but they would have replaced inarguably our two worst regulars, Finley and Clark.

    We make the semifinals and have a puncher’s chance against Holland in the semifinals. Even without those two we lost in extra time to a team that missed the semis on PKs.
     
  5. Elninho

    Elninho Member+

    Sacramento Republic FC
    United States
    Oct 30, 2000
    Sacramento, CA
    Club:
    Los Angeles Galaxy
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Don't forget Holden getting his leg broken by De Jong in a friendly, while having a Premier League Best XI level season (per Opta stats), and not being fully fit at the World Cup.

    We could have had a really scary team in 2010.
     
    Lloyd Heilbrunn, Burr, Mr Martin and 7 others repped this.
  6. dna77054

    dna77054 Member+

    Jun 28, 2003
    houston
    Are you just assuming that we would have cruised past Uruguay in the quarterfinals? That is a real stretch.
     
  7. Ryan T Smith

    Ryan T Smith Member

    Borussia Dortmund
    United States
    May 10, 2022
    Not "cruised past" them, but let's not act like they would have been overwhelming favorites against us either. Our team as it stood lost to Ghana in ET. That same Ghana team came a Luis Suarez hand (and subsequent Gyan choke-job) away from beating them. A healthy USMNT would have definitely given Uruguay a good game.
     
  8. dna77054

    dna77054 Member+

    Jun 28, 2003
    houston
    I agree, it would have been a good game, with Uruguay slight favorites. The post I was replying to states "We make the semifinals." as a foregone conclusion.
     
    The Irish Rover and Ryan T Smith repped this.
  9. superdave

    superdave Member+

    Jul 14, 1999
    VB, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I’m assuming that we could have beaten a team that played Ghana and wasn’t any better over 120 minutes.

    The word “cruised” is you using a verb that changes the meaning of what I wrote.
     
  10. superdave

    superdave Member+

    Jul 14, 1999
    VB, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I disagree here. Once Bradley figured out how to use Dempsey and Donovan, which he did at the Confed Cup, our midfield was worldwide in the 2nd tier at full strength. Jones in place of Clark IMO put our midfield as good as any in the world except the two finalists.
     
    Marko72 repped this.
  11. gomichigan24

    gomichigan24 Member+

    Jul 15, 2002
    Club:
    Manchester United FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Definitely not but that’s as winnable a quarterfinal game as you are going to get.
     
    Marko72 repped this.
  12. gomichigan24

    gomichigan24 Member+

    Jul 15, 2002
    Club:
    Manchester United FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Just imagine if Rossi and Subtotic had any interest in playing for us in 2010. Or if John O’Brien isn’t injury prone as he would have been 32 at the time of that World Cup and of age to have contributed to the team.
     
  13. superdave

    superdave Member+

    Jul 14, 1999
    VB, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Remember that as the Ghana match played out, Clark was responsible for Ghana’s first goal and he was so rattled that Bradley had to pull him in the first half. 2010 healthy Jones is probably the best American and he’d have replaced the worst player.
     
    theboogeyman and Ryan T Smith repped this.
  14. right wing

    right wing Member

    Apr 2, 2009
    Club:
    FC Dallas
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    #14 right wing, Apr 7, 2024
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2024
    I have 2.

    1) 1994
    What if Leonardo doesn’t crack Tab Ramos’s skull open in the rd. of 16. With Tab on the field… maybe?

    2) This is even more general.
    What if post 1998 (cycle is debatable) the ussf hires a manager and staff that brings a true 4 year plan to develop looking at a 2002 and/ or beyond squad?
    Every cycle can be argued as a “what could have been roster”.
    Not dog piling on any manager. I believe they all try their best, we have just never hired a true builder. Seems like we just hired the best Americans we had laying around and a German guy whose name some people in a boardroom recognized.
    I still dream about what we could do with a federation that had vision beyond the end of its own nose.
     
    Mr Martin, rgli13 and Ryan T Smith repped this.
  15. dna77054

    dna77054 Member+

    Jun 28, 2003
    houston
    You wrote "We make the semifinals". I see no doubt on your part in that statement. You state it as a fact, not a possibility. Is that the meaning of what you wrote?
     
  16. gogorath

    gogorath Member+

    None
    United States
    May 12, 2019
    Long term building of the program is not primarily situated in a manager -- the things that improve a country's prospects have to do with interest / culture of the game, young player development, etc. Not what a manager does in a 2 game window every two months.

    While I'm sure USSF has made many missteps, USSF has had a long term plan and many of those elements have actually worked out pretty well.

    The path has been clear for a long time: improved youth development, focus on skills, a strong professional league to provide a professional outlet and funding, pro youth development. We've had the DA, we have MLS academies (and now USL academies) and other actions.

    That's not the hard part. The hard part is execution. Getting money to do all this. Getting the youth leagues to play nice. Getting youth coaches to not chase winning. Changing culture in a small organization is incredibly hard; try shepherding it on a national level. When you are an underfunded organization that is fundamentally a federation of members with different goals.
     
    Marko72, jaykoz3, Elninho and 2 others repped this.
  17. Master O

    Master O Member+

    Jul 7, 2006
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    If the USA had beaten Brazil in the Confederations Cup, that would have forced the US sports media to acknowledge the USMNT's existence outside of the World Cup every 4 years.
     
    gomichigan24 and Ryan T Smith repped this.
  18. Ryan T Smith

    Ryan T Smith Member

    Borussia Dortmund
    United States
    May 10, 2022
    The win over Spain at least gave us a bit of non-World Cup fame. I remember it led off SportsCenter and won "Best Upset" at the ESPYs that year. But I agree that had we finished the job against Brazil we'd have gotten much more coverage, especially in the year leading up to the World Cup, and might have inspired more young people to get into the sport.
     
  19. Master O

    Master O Member+

    Jul 7, 2006
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Soccer has always had an image problem in the USA and has had to fight to gain any sort of respect.

    As the Baby Boomers become less relevant in American society, especially in the US sports media, Soccer will hopefully get much more media coverage.
     
  20. rgli13

    rgli13 Member+

    Mar 23, 2005
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    of the options given its the frings handball, for me. there are a million variables to any of these, but that (in theory) puts us into a wc semi.

    but ramos being taken out is the correct answer for a very similar reason. its hard to articulate the feeling at the time, playing an incredible brazil team at home in a wc ko match on the fourth of july, and tab was absolutely dealing against them, and the fact that brazil had to literally take him out was just mind-boggling.

    that world cup, imo, legitimized the sport in this country. everything else thats happened came from that, and then in 02 we took another huge leap forward- imagine if we had made a quarterfinal run 8 years earlier?

    but part of me thinks it would have been seen as more of a fluke (as a whole) than what ultimately happened- showing very well in a hosted world cup. a soccer nation being born. but we hadnt grown enough yet that maybe it wouldnt be seen as the huge "next step" 02 was, where we carried that match against germany, it wasnt a fluke, we were the proverbially "better" team on the day.

    i think (beating brazil) could have been seen more as a miracle run that wasnt especially "earned", or deserved. i think that beating a great colombia side, hosting a hugely successful world cup all around (particularly in terms of the financial benefits we provided), putting up the good fight but bowing out proudly to a superior team shaped us into what us soccer (and ussf) is today. for better and for worse.

    it just feels like everything happened the way it needed to happen, that from 94 to 02 was a very organic growth as a soccer nation, and now, in the last 8 or so years weve started to develop world class (adjacent) players.

    so that one step further of beating brazil- thats the biggest what if for me.

    so many others (o'brien, holden, davies, the lost generation) all really belong in a separate discussion of what ifs regarding our slowed/stalled growth since 02. we grew like a weed from (lets call it 92-02 for a nice, round decade) and are now sorta run-of-the-mill 30-somethings. not underachieving, but certainly not setting the world on fire either.

    which is why i am so...less than satisfied so often now. we shouldnt be as excited about making it out of wc group stages as we are now. its 21 years later and im ready to take another actual step forward- not just back to where weve been.

    our biggest what if now is american managers developing at a rate even remotely commensurate to that of our players.
     
  21. superdave

    superdave Member+

    Jul 14, 1999
    VB, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Who gets “excited” about getting out of the group??? If you have someone in mind, name a name.

    I think you mistake people being SATISFIED with people being excited. There are posters who see us as a top 16 not top 8 nation. I’m one of them. Then there are posters who think we should have beaten Holland. Whenever they post, the rest of us pull out all the stats about transfer values and minutes and goals in top leagues to show them that they’re wrong.
     
    EruditeHobo, Shabs and jaykoz3 repped this.
  22. Eleven Bravo

    Eleven Bravo Member+

    Atlanta United
    United States
    Jul 3, 2004
    SC
    Club:
    Atlanta Silverbacks
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I’ll go with what probably won’t be a common opinion amongst the geezers in the room, but I’ll go with Pulisic’s miss.

    Why?

    Torsten Frings handball - To be honest, the US soccer development was way too premature at this point. Remember that MLS was on the verge of folding in the early 2000s. If we had made it to the semi finals, you could see us being lulled into complacency longer. Plus, there was not quite the soccer media development so I don’t think it would have had as lasting of an impact.

    …I say that to say, I expect most [old] fans will select this choice.

    Confed Cup - There’s a good reason to select this one but not when the Confed Cup is a bizarrely disbanded tournament.

    Wondo miss - Similarly to the Torsten miss. We went on to have the lost generation immediately after this tournament. Maybe there’s good reason for us to go through our hard times to get to where we want to go. Plus, we would have more reason to be stuck with Klinsy had we gone further. That said, another run in the play offs, at this stage in soccer media access, would have probably had a bigger impact than 2002.

    The 1998 fiasco was going down with or without Harkes. What if Mike Burns didn’t fall asleep at the post?

    But ultimately, I’ll select Pulisic’s miss. I still think we could have won that game, if we didn’t fall asleep and get out coached. Meanwhile, a quarter final run for the golden generation with the soccer media development, with the foundations of MLS in place, and all else, we could have pushed the momentum behind this team more.
     
  23. Eleven Bravo

    Eleven Bravo Member+

    Atlanta United
    United States
    Jul 3, 2004
    SC
    Club:
    Atlanta Silverbacks
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    What if NASL survived?
     
  24. superdave

    superdave Member+

    Jul 14, 1999
    VB, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    You left out the main reason we lost. The other team had players with more talent and also more experience.
     
  25. QuakeAttack

    QuakeAttack Member+

    Apr 10, 2002
    California - Bay Area
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Easy. Torsten Frings handball. A WC Semi and chance to go to a final.

    Outside of core fans, nobody cared about the Confed Cup.

    I liked the additional of 1994 US vs Brazil game (I was at the game). Yes, we were holding our own, but had zero attack. I just don't see us holding out to PKs in the game.
     
    Chesco United repped this.

Share This Page