Skip to content

Today’s momentous anniversary in U.S. national team history; do you know the occasion?

Jun 5, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT

O'Brien goal

I just love asking the good, sweet, clean U.S. Soccer fans this question: Where were you in the wee smalls of June 5, 2002?

Did you even have your first cup of Get up and Go Juice before John O’Brien roofed that re-directed corner kick spectacularly against Portugal? (If you’re on the West Coast, I suppose it wasn’t so much the wee small hours … just more of an early, early rise.)

That was in the opening minutes of the stunning U.S. win over Portugal, a match that kicked off in Asia during the pre-dawn hours in our country. And it was O’Brien’s historic strike that set the wheels in motion for so, so much more.

I have noted before how ironic it was that such a momentous occasion in U.S. Soccer history would happen when so many drowsy American fans (and probably more than a few who couldn’t quite answer the alarm bell) didn’t quite have their senses about them.

The world was certainly alert as a 1-goal lead became a 2-goal lead. And then a 3-goal margin before the break, an absolute stunning turn against the vaunted Portuguese Golden Generation. Portugal was among the favorites at World Cup 2002; the United States was in a remarkable different place, coming off that crummy showing at France ’98, where Steve Sampson’s team had placed 32nd out of 32 teams.

In this piece, I called O’Brien’s goal the single most significant moment of the last decade for U.S. Soccer.

There would be other huge moments in Asia that June: every goal against Portugal would eventually be needed; So would Clint Mathis’ precision strike against South Korea, and both of the epochal strikes in one of the original “Dos a Cero” matches, the sweet Round-of-16 triumph over a wonderfully flustered Mexico that helped arrange a decade of U.S. dominance in the border series.

But that win on June 5, 2002, over Portugal put it all in motion, setting the table for the United States to arrive so tantalizingly close to a semifinal appearance.

And in the bigger, bigger picture, we could argue that June of 2002 did more to push soccer in the United States into greater cultural prominence than any other window. Ever.

Here is O’Brien’s landmark goal:


  1. mkbryant3 - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    West Coaster here. What sweet, sweet unbelievable joy it was to watch that game. Launching myself out of my sofa to almost hit my fist against the ceiling….and a few tears. Soccer is such a game of foreplay. This game was orgasmic.

    Did Sanneh have the tournament of his life or what? Wow.

    As I get older, I hope we can reach those heights again before I die. Such is the long road in this sport.

  2. charliej11 - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    West Coast guy. I go to work early, so I hit the bar before work for one game and I remember one game being at about 1:00 AM.

    McBride was a beast.

    Who is that announcing ?

    • Steve Davis - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      Jack Edwards, I believe. He of “Mine eyes have seen the glory” fame.

  3. kingarthur900 - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    Yes, I was awake in the dark, watching the game with some die-hard Portuguese students on a big-screen TV in the student union on the campus of the University of Oklahoma.
    And for what it’s worth, I think John O’brien was the best player to ever put on the USA shirt. Speed, Skill, Vision, Technical Ability, Tactical Awareness, he had it all. Just couldn’t stay ahead of injury. He’s #1 on my USA All-Time list!

  4. danielofthedale - Jun 5, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    I did not have cable so I had to watch on one of the local over the air Mexican channels. I could not get the picture to come in on the tv in my room or the living room with the rabbit ears so I snuck into my parents room and was able to get the static to subside enough to see the game. When JOB scored I screamed and jumped up and down and my mom woke up started wanting to know what was going on and why I was screaming and there was Spanish language television on at that time! It was great!!! I will never forget that game in all my years!

  5. LasVegasMatt - Jun 5, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Weird seeing Jamie Moyer’s name on the bottom line, considering he just retired last year. This feels like a lot more than 11 years ago.

  6. orbmech - Jun 5, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    East coaster here. I had just gotten settled with my morning tea when O’Brien scored and promptly there was tea all over the living room. My walls got a nice cleaning that evening.

  7. anchoredinn - Jun 6, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    I was at the game! Was a brand new English teacher in Seoul, didn’t like soccer and didn’t even know the WC was taking place in the country when I arrived. But, I went to the match with some Canadian friends, was totally stoked throughout, and became transfixed on the tournament for the entire month. Something I would’ve never expected, but a time I’ll always remember.
    That game made me a soccer fan for life. Anyone know if it can be watched in its entirety somewhere?

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

PST Extra: Analyzing transfer deadline day