On June 24, 2009, the United States were in Bloemfontein, South Africa as semifinalists in the 2009 Confederations Cup. Standing between the USMNT and a date in their first Confederations Cup final was #1 Spain. Spain entered the match on a 35-match unbeaten streak, the last 15 of them victories, both world records. The USMNT simply didn’t give a damn.
It was one of the most incredible performances by a USMNT squad ever, as they socked the top team in the world straight in the mouth. They seized opportunities, they fought, and let Spain know early that it was not going to be a fun day for them. The scoring began in the 25th minute, as Clint Dempsey fed a pass to Jozy Altidore, who held off then-Villarreal teammate Joan Capdevila, turned with the pass and then got a shot off as Carles Puyol closed in that tipped off the glove of Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, off the post and into the goal. 1-0 USA, and the European champions were stunned.
Spain just didn’t have an answer for the incredible defensive effort by the United States. They did get 11 shots off, including 6 on target, but none of them got past Tim Howard. In the 73rd minute, the USMNT struck again. This time, it was Landon Donovan, after some great buildup from Benny Feilhaber, feeding a cross into the box. It bounces off Gerard Pique Gerard Piqué to Clint Dempsey, who does a turnaround shot at the edge of the 6-yard box into the net.
2-0. 2-0 on the European champions. 2-0 to the #1 team in the world, who hadn’t seen a loss in 3 years. The USMNT were riding high. An 86th-minute red card to Michael Bradley was a damper to the party, but soon after, the final whistle blew. The United States had done it. They sent a message to the rest of the world that day, a message that was received loud and clear: the United States can play some soccer, and they won’t quit. It’s one of the greatest upsets in Confederations Cup history, and it’s a day where the USMNT toppled the world’s best.