The US entered its game against Costa Rica with just one win in its first five World Cup Qualifiers. A boisterous crowd in Portland spurred on the team, but there were few dangerous opportunities for either side in the first half. As the minutes passed, anxiety built as the most the US could muster were half-chances and blocked shots.
Deep in the second half, substitute Preki lines for a corner kick with his trademark left foot. The long ball reaches Earnie Stewart in the box, but Stewart’s touch betrays him, and he scrambles to recover on the far left flank. Stewart returns a pass that finds Preki, thus completing the world’s longest give and go. The change of field disrupts the Costa Rica defense, though, and Preki finds himself 1 v. 1 near the corner of the 18. He motions for a left-footed cross, but fools the defender, the crowd, and possibly himself by cutting back on to his right foot. The low cross bounces across the penalty spot, and Marcelo Balboa – still up from the initial corner kick – calmly lays the ball off for Ramos just outside the box. Ramos furiously strikes the ball from 25 yards, and beats the keeper at the near post.
Ramos and half the team sprint behind the goal to celebrate with joyous relief. The US would hold on for the 1-0 win, and set the qualifying campaign back on track.