On Saturday, the U.S. men’s national team will take on Mexico at the Rose Bowl in a special CONCACAF Cup title game to decide which nation will represent CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup (6pm PT, FOX Sports 1). While the Rose Bowl will be jam packed, here's a look back at four times the USMNT battled foes in Portland.
The smallest crowd ever to see a U.S. match in the Rose City was the 4,181 that watched a soccer doubleheader that started with the home debut of FC Portland of the Western Alliance Challenge Series, who took on FC Seattle, followed by the USMNT taking on Canada. The national teams played to a 1-1 draw with Hugo Perez scoring on a late penalty kick to salvage the tie for the U.S.
Oregon soccer history was made in quite a few ways during the match. The game marked the first time the state had ever hosted the U.S. senior national team for a match. Starting in goal for the U.S. was former Timbers player Jim Gorsek, who was born and raised in Oregon City and played for Oregon CIty High School. With the start, Gorsek became the first Oregonian to ever start an international match.
The largest crowd to ever watch the U.S. men's national team in Portland happened on September 7, 1997 when 27,396 fans crowded into Civic Stadium to see the U.S. defeat Costa Rica, 1-0 in a vital FIFA World Cup Qualifying match. The lone goal was scored by Ramos in the 78th minute and Ramos' strike sent the capacity crowd into a frenzy as confetti fell around them.
While the victory played a major role in the team securing a spot in a third consecutive World Cup, the match is also remembered for having a major role in the rebirth of Portland being known as Soccer City, USA. After the match, U.S. Soccer Federation President Hank Steinbrecher told the Oregonian that "this crowd is the best American crowd we've ever had." In addition, due to a promotion by Nike, the crowd was given thundersticks to clap throughout the match. It was the first time the air-filled plastic sticks were seen at a United States sporting event.
In the buildup to the 1998 World Cup, the then-named Civic Stadium was the site for a USMNT friendly against Kuwait on a Sunday afternoon on May 24. Despite a close final scoreline of 2-0, the U.S. completely overmatched the Kuwaitis, outshooting its opponents by a 25-to-four margin. Ernie Stewart and Tab Ramos scored the goals while University of Portland product Kasey Keller secured the shutout in goal.
The match marked for U.S. debut for Martinique-born David Regis, who secured his American citizenship just days before the game. Regis, who started at fullback, went on to earn 27 caps and was named to two World Cup rosters.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup came to the Rose City for the first time in 2013 with Providence Park hosting a doubleheader that featured Cuba matching up against Costa Rica and the United States taking on Belize. Forward Chris Wondolowski stole the show, notching a first half hat trick against the overmatch Belizean side. The number three took on a added meaning for Wondo due to a wardrobe mistake on the San Jose Earthquakes man's jerse. For that match, the last name on the back of his kit accidentally included three "w's" for "Wondowlowski."
Stuart Holden, Landon Donovan, and Michael Orozco-Fiscal also added goals for the host country on the way to a 6-1 victory on July 9, 2013. Donovan also delivered two assists, becoming the first American with 50 assists in international matches and the lone member of the 50-goal, 50-assist club for the U.S. The match was the first U.S. men’s game played in Portland in 15 years and drew 18,724 fans.