Today, the time machine goes back to February 10, 1998, when the United States was in the middle of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. This was during a time where only 10 teams competed in the Gold Cup and usually one of those teams was an invitee from another confederation. The invited guest of the 1998 Gold Cup was none other than Brazil, at that point the defending World Cup champions who were preparing to defend their title in France that summer.
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was the site of the 1998 Gold Cup semifinals, and the USMNT lined up against the World Cup champs and the number 1 team in the world. Most expected the USMNT to get ran off the field by the Brazilians. They underestimated the determination and grit an American team would have.
In the first half, it was all Brazil, who pelted then-goalkeeper Kasey Keller with all the shots in the world. But shot after shot was saved by the American goalkeeper. After a point-blank save from a Romario shot, Kasey Keller recalls the famous Brazilian walking up to him to shake his hand:
“He said later in an interview that because of the series of saves throughout the game, he felt like he needed to acknowledge it. He didn’t know why he did it, just that it felt like the right thing to do. I just remember smiling and feeling the same thing. Was I supposed to say thank you? What else was I going to do there? It wasn’t the first or last time that had happened in my career, but for obvious reasons, it’s the time everyone asks about.”
In the 2nd half, the USMNT finally broke through, with Preki scoring in the 65th minute. After that, it was a mad dash to the finish, with Brazil throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the goal protected by Keller. But, the USMNT were not to be denied. Preki’s goal was the lone scored in that semifinal, and Kasey Keller ended with 10 saves. The USMNT defeated #1 Brazil 1-0.
It’s one of the great victories in U.S. Soccer history, and one that is still talked about today. Kasey Keller’s performance was one that around the world fans recall, the day he stopped 10 shots against Brazil. Until Tim Howard’s performance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup Round of 16, it was considered the greatest performance by an American goalkeeper.
Relive the highlights of that incredible day in LA and look back at how the USMNT beat the World Cup champions.