Odd circumstances surrounded the start of the 1998 World Cup Qualifying campaign. By virtue of hosting the 1994 World Cup, the US hadn’t played a CONCACAF qualifier since the epic game against Trindad and Tobago, a seven year span. Just a few weeks before the game, the US squad also remained a mystery. Year-long labor negotiations stalled between players and the US federation, resulting in a makeshift roster for the mid-October friendly in Peru, the last game before qualifying began.
Fortunately, the two sides resolved the bonus issue, and familiar faces returned for the game in DC. The US started nine players that beat Guatemala in the Gold Cup earlier that year. However, like most of the other games in this era, playing a Central American opponent in DC meant that this was a “home” game.
After a scoreless first half, Claudio Reyna attacks the left channel with Joe-Max Moore out to his left. Reyna encounters two defenders just outside the box, but dribbles to retain possession, giving Moore enough time to recycle his run and receive a pass. Moore is near the touchline, but can’t find the space for a cross. He fights off a shove, and returns the ball to a surprisingly unmarked Reyna, essentially where the sequence began. A quick touch with the left sets-up a precise inswinger from Reyna with the right. Eric Wynalda ghosts between two Guatemala defenders at the penalty spot, and weights the ball perfectly with his right instep. Wynalda’s first touch brings the ball to ground, and the second touch off the bounce is him smashing the ball to the far left side.
Wynalda also created a symbolic moment in the 89th minute, when his pass across the box found an onrushing Brian McBride – the first goal of McBride’s US career. However, it’s the first goal that captures the attention, as Wynalda displayed excellent composure and awareness. It’s a finish that another number 11 would replicate six years later, but that’s for another week.