With the announcement today that the US U23 team will be coming to Kansas City as part of Olympic qualifying ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, I thought I'd take a look bad at the second time the US team has played in KC. Back in 2001, the USA made their first trip to Kansas City in almost 33 years on April 25th of that year. The last time the US had been in KC had been for a World Cup qualifier against Bermuda that saw the US win 6-2.
In 2001 it was again a World Cup qualifier, but this time against Costa Rica at Arrowhead Stadium. A crowd of 37,219, the largest soccer crowd in Kansas City history (a record that would last until the KC Wizards played Manchester United in 2010) was on hand to watch the US play. At the time it was the largest midweek qualifier crowd in US Soccer history, and looking back on it now a look into what type of soccer community there could really be in KC.
The US had the better of the possession in the early going of the game, but couldn't really capitalize on it with an early goal. The best early chance for the US came in the 16th minute when Claudio Renya played a nice ball over the top to Josh Wolff who brought the ball down nicely and chipped it over the Costa Rican goalkeeper only to have it cleared off the line by the defense before it could fully cross the line. Wolff was proving to be a menace for the Costa Rican defense throughout the half with his pace. Still the US went into the break level at 0-0.
The second half saw the US continue to be the better side, creating the better opportunities, but Costa Rica started to find some space of their own. Kasey Keller in the US net was called on to make some decent saves. Finally in the 70th minute the US broke through. A corner by Jeff Agoos was only partially cleared back to Agoos who played the ball immediately back into the box towards Clint Mathis. Mathis won the ball off his defender, but as the two were coming down the ball hit off the arm of Mathis right into the path of Wolff, who with an open goal, poked it into the net to give the US the lead. The Costa Ricans were shouting for a hand ball, but no call came. Now chasing the game, Costa Rica were the ones that pushed the game over the final 20 minutes, but the US defense held firm and were able to secure all three points in the third straight game to kick off the Hex as the US would go on to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. The loss would actually be Costa Rica's only loss of the Hex as they would win it with 23 points compared to the 17 points that the US and Mexico both finished with.
Here's the USA's lineup for the game, and highlights are further down.
Reyna (c) (Berhalter)