Cover photo by David Richard/USA TODAY Sports
Meola, Scurry, Friedel, Keller, Solo, Howard. You know the names now you can watch the games. Here are the top twenty most important performances by American goalkeepers on the international stage. Criteria taken into account:
- Importance of game
- Overall impact on the game
- Video availability
If there aren't highlights available, they didn't make the list. So performances like Frank Borghi's 1-0 shutout over England or Jimmy Douglas' two shutouts in the 1930 World Cup, the first one ever on record, will not be featured on this list. They obviously deserve mention (and I'm sure I'm forgetting some others) but this is strictly a video-only list.
1. Brad Friedel vs. South Korea - 2002
Setting: 2002 World Cup. The US and South Korea are both coming off big wins in their first game (3-2 over Portugal and 2-0 over Poland, respectively). Going into their second game, either team could secure their bid to the knockout stage with win.
Why it's great: Friedel really earned the point for the US. If they lose this game they don't escape group stage and the storied run to the quarterfinals washes away. There's a penalty save and three shots saved from within ten yards. Yes there's a late goal given up, but it's because of Friedel that South Korea has zero before that goal.
2. Briana Scurry vs. China PR - 1999
Setting: 1999 World Cup Final. The US had finished a respectable third in 1995 and weren't willing to accept anything less than winning the tournament.
Why it's great: Well they essentially won the World Cup because of it so that's impossible to overlook. However it's somewhat hard to rate on this list. There's a strong case for number one, which shouldn't be scoffed at, but with it only being only one save where she is well positioned off her line, it's hard to accurately weigh. But needless to say it's an iconic time in US Soccer.
3. Kasey Keller vs. Brazil - 1998
Setting: 1998 Gold Cup. Brazil, CONMEBOL's representative and tournament invitee, had struggled in the group stage but still advanced to the the semifinals of the tournament. The US had never beaten Brazil at this point (and hasn't since).
Why it's great: Most people are going to say this is number one. To be fair, Brazil wasn't playing their best going into the game (they had previously tied both Jamaica and Guatemala in the group stage) and most of the shots were near Keller. However, he does make ten saves and shocks Brazil's striker Romário so much that he congratulates Keller during the game. Later Romário goes on to say, “That is the best performance by a goalkeeper I have ever seen."
4. Hope Solo vs. Japan - 2012
Setting: 2012 Olympic final. The year before the US lost to Japan in the World Cup final and were looking for some revenge.
Why it's great: Multiple high reflex saves including a massive 1v1 stop near the end of the game to put the US on the winner's stage.
5. Tim Howard vs. Mexico - 2012
Setting: One of the most important friendlies in US history. US enters the game winless in Mexico in 24 matches. Fourteen months earlier, the US blew a 2-0 lead in the 2011 Gold Cup to lose 4-2. Mexico's U23 team won the recent Olympic tournament. Things were not looking US's way.
Why it's great: The first win at Azteca and Howard has two unreal saves at the end of the game. Yes it was a friendly but one that quickly turned the tide against a heavy Mexico-time.
6. Tim Howard vs. England - 2010
Setting: 2010 World Cup opening game for the group. The last time the two played in the World Cup was in 1950 when the US won 1-0. Could the US keep the undefeated streak going?
Why it's great: The goal in fourth minute wasn't exactly the right start for the US but Howard made sure there weren't anymore goals that night. He would win Man of the Match and preserve the much needed point that eventually put US atop the group.
7. Tim Howard vs. Belgium - 2014
Setting: 2014 World Cup Knockout Stage. The US slipped through the supposed Group of Death and are paired with Belgium in the round of 16.
Why it's great: Well it's definitely not because he helped them win but because he helped them stay in contention for so long. Howard tallied sixteen saves, a World Cup record, but the US ended up losing 2-1. If you're interested in reading more on it, check out my post on Soccer Over There aptly titled, "Was Howard's 16 Save Performance Any Good?"
8. David Vanole vs. Costa Rica - 1998
Setting: 1998 World Cup Qualifier. It's only the second of eight games into the qualification but the 1-0 win over Costa Rica was a needed win to stay in the running for the 1990 World Cup
Why it's great: Yes, it's only for those two saves we have video of but they were two BIG saves that catapult USA in to their first World Cup sinc-oh you already know the story.
9. Tony Meola vs. England - 1993
Setting: 1993 US Cup. America had come off a 2-0 loss to Brazil and turns around to play England in their second game.
Why it's great: Well the US went on to finish third out of four teams. But you know who got last? That's right, England. It was the second and last time the US has beat Euro big brother.
10. Hope Solo vs. Canada - 2012
Setting: While it's technically just a friendly, it's never really just a friendly with Canada and the USWNT. The women go on to win 2-1 in dramatic fashion.
Why it's great: Quite possibly the best save by any US goalkeeper ever. Contextually, it drops because it's a friendly, but the double save is a very high point of Hope Solo's career.
Best of the Rest
11. Tim Howard vs. Guatemala, 2008 - Howard was atop his prime and his explosiveness shows. Despite being outshot 21-9, the US hold on to the win.
12. Kasey Keller vs. Costa Rica, 2005 - Even though the scoreline was 3-0, Keller had some very nice saves.
13. Tim Howard vs. Argentina, 2008 - The US is coming off of losses to England and Spain and heading into their first World Cup Qualifying games against the Caribbean giant Barbados. (Haha.) Howard stops three 1v1s... all in the first half.
14. Kasey Keller vs. New Zealand, 1999 - Keller has two extended saves against New Zealand in their opening game of the 1999 Confederations Cup.
15. Tim Howard vs. Mexico, 2013 - With 2014 World Cup Qualifying on the line, the Hex is winding down with only three games left. Can the US beat Mexico too many times? I don't think so. Dos a cero lives on as Howard holds the fort together from early on.
16. Hope Solo vs. China PR, 2006 - Solo is pretty decent at double saves. Skip to 2:15 for the acrobatic display.
17. Kasey Keller vs. Panama, 2005 - Keller had a fantastic triple-save against Panama in 2005.
18. Tim Howard vs. Spain, 2009 - Howard snaps Spain's massive thirty-five game winning streak in the 2009 Confederations Cup and also ends up winning best goalkeeper of the tournament.
19. Marcus Hahnemann vs. Guatemala, 2005 - The rarely seen goalkeeper makes a couple nice saves against Guatemala for the 2006 World Cup Qualifying, including a top notch save at 2:25
20. Brad Guzan vs. Mexico, 2013 - Backup Brad Guzan fills in mightily for Howard when he's dealing with a back injury. Earns a point at Azteca in WCQ.