15 Most Memorable Games In USA Team Sports History
15 Most Memorable Games In USA Team Sports History
America loves being at the top, and what better way to assert your global dominance than by producing the world's best athletes. This past fortnight in Sochi the Americans came in second in the overall medal count to the hosts, 33-28, but finished fourth where it really mattered -- golds. The Sochi performance extended America's overall Olympic medal count lead across summer and winter games to 2,681, 821 ahead of the next best country Russia (combined across the USSR, Unified Team and modern day Russian Federation).
The USA is infatuated with team sports with four of the best team sports leagues in the world, a plethora of national 24-hour sports networks and billions of dollars feeding into the players and media rights. With all this coverage and following energized into our professional leagues, it is refreshing when the American team sports can unite this nation of 310 million at international competitions.
On the men's side the soccer team, led by current MLS stars Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, are respected worldwide. The ice hockey team—despite putting together a pathetic performance in the bronze medal game against Finland—still have some of the best talent in the world. And the basketball squad is back to being virtually untouchable.
The talent pool is even deeper on the women's side, where America's soccer, basketball and ice hockey teams are at worst second in the world. A lot of that superiority has to do with the 1972 passing of Title IX, the law against underfunding based on gender (among other stipulations). Now, thirty-plus years later, the women's athletic organizations have reaped Title IX's rewards. Just take a look at the gold tally the Americans put up from the London Olympics. Of the USA's game-high 46 gold medals, the girls won 29.
Regardless of the Olympic results, America produces the best athletes in spite of whether you are a man or a woman, and all these world-class squads make for matchups in the most meaningful tournaments. That, in turn, has produced some of America's most captivating sporting moments.
15. August 7, 2012: Kessy/Ross (USA) 2-Larissa/Juliana (Brazil) 1
To say that Jen Kessy and April Ross were overlooked compared to their American teammates Misty May-Trainer and Kerri Walsh-Jennings would be an understatement, but they delivered the most topsy-turvy game of the 2012 Olympic beach volleyball tournament. In the semifinal against the world’s number one duo, Juliana and Larissa, the Brazilians took the first set 21-15. But the Americans rallied to take the second 21-19 before taking the third and deciding set 15-12, securing a medal over the pre-tournament favorites.
14. March 17, 2009: USA 6-Puerto Rico 5
Major League Baseball was looking to get a memorable moment or two to give its second installment of the World Baseball Classic a kick-start, and the USA’s elimination game win over Puerto Rico seemed to be a start. The Americans, who were already lost to their territorial step-brothers via the 10-run rule earlier in the WBC, trailed 5-3 entering the bottom of the ninth. Then a three-run ninth-inning rally happened, capped by a David Wright walk-off single to send America to the final four.
13. June 17, 2002: USA 2-Mexico 0
Did someone say "Dos a cero"? Yes, that was probably Alexi Lalas. Brian McBride put America on top eight minutes in, and Landon Donovan doubled the lead in the 65th of their 2002 FIFA World Cup Round of 16 matchup. But the rivalry was not met without controversy as the referees missed an apparent hand-ball on John O'Brien and Mexican defender Rafael Marquez blatantly head-butted Cobi Jones.
12. July 23, 1996: USA 389.225-Russia 388.404
Who is more famous: Kerri Strug or Bela Karolyi? One, Strug, nursing a bum ankle, hit the winning fault to give the "Magnificent Seven" the all-around 1996 gymnastics gold. The other, Karolyi, famously motivated his gymnast by delivering the "you can do it!"-heard-‘round-the-world in his Romanian accent.
11. February 15, 2014: USA 3-Russia 2 (Shootout)
This game benefits from taking place only a short while ago, but since both teams crashed-and-burned in the elimination round, it can't totally stand up to this list’s other moments. Regardless, the Americans bested the hosts in front of Russian president Vladimir Putin (who was surprisingly wearing a shirt) thanks to T.J. Oshie and the most memorable shootout in hockey history.
10. August 6, 2012: USA 4-Canada 3 (Overtime)
Christine Sinclair put the Canucks ahead on three separate occasions during their 2012 Olympic semifinal, but the Americans always found a way to get the equalizer. Down to the 123rd minute and the unforgiving penalty kicks looming, Heather O’Reilly sent a cross in from the right side, finding the head of Alex Morgan who put it past the diving Canadian keeper Erin McLeod.
9. February 20, 2014: Canada 3-USA 2 (Overtime)
There is only one day every four years that the world cares about women’s hockey, and it is on the day of the Olympic gold medal game. The Americans finally had the upper hand on their rivals to the North when Alex Carpenter doubled the lead during an early third period power play. Then came Sochi’s biggest choke job as Canada scored two goals in the final 3:26 of regulation and won the gold in overtime over a clearly rattled group from the States.
8. July 10, 2011: USA 2(5)-Brazil 2(3) (Penalty Kicks)
Brazilian super-woman Marta put her girls ahead not even two minutes into stoppage time of their 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinal, fully seizing the momentum in overtime. The U.S., already down a woman courtesy of Rachel Buehler’s 69th minute red card, was pushed to the absolute brink of elimination until Megan Rapinoe’s left-footed cross found the head of teammate Abby Wambach. Although penalty kicks were to follow, there was no way the Americans were going to lose after Wambach’s equalizer in the 122nd minute.
7. August 11, 2008: USA 3:08.24-France 3:08.32
Flashback to the Beijing Games in the summer of 2008 and the name that comes to mind is Michael Phelps. Going for an unprecedented eight golds, Phelps needed the help of his teammates, particularly Jason Lezak, for the win in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay. The French and their anchor Alain Bernard were already trash-talking the Americans leading into the race, and heading into the last leg the French had over a half-second lead on the Americans. But Lezak put together the fastest split ever (46.06) to beat Bernard, the world-record holder in the 100-meter freestyle at the time in Phelps' second of eight golds of the Games.
6. September 30, 2012: Europe 14.5-USA 13.5
Back home at Medinah, the U.S. needed just 4.5 of 12 points on the final day of the 2012 Ryder Cup. America dropped five of the first seven matches, but all was not lost as the U.S. was ahead on three of the final five matches. Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, both captains selections by Davis Love III, missed clutch putts on the final few holes in dropping matches to Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer, helping send the Europeans into their insufferable "Ole! Ole! Ole!" victory celebration.
5. February 28, 2010: Canada 3-USA 2 (Overtime)
The United States had already handed it to the hosts 5-3 in group play a week prior, but going for the jugular, they came up empty-handed. Zach Parise’s goal with 0:25 left in regulation sent the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal Game into overtime, but it had to be Sidney Crosby whose 4-on-4 wrister got past tournament MVP Ryan Miller for the title.
4. September 26, 1999: USA 14.5-Europe 13.5
Ben Crenshaw "had a good feeling." Down 10-6 to start the Sunday singles at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., the Americans took the first six matches of the day. Jim Furyk, before his Ryder Cup days took a turn for the worse, bested Spanish young-gun Sergio Garcia early. It set up Justin Leonard to clinch the 1999 Ryder Cup, largely due to his monster 45-foot putt on the 17th.
3. June 23, 2010: USA 1-Algeria 0
You cannot find an ending more exciting than this. Sure, basketball has buzzer beaters and football has Hail Marys, but Landon Donovan’s group-clinching goal in the stoppage time of the 2010 World Cup group stage meant the Yanks would win the group ahead of early group favorite and the sport’s inventor, England, instead of being eliminated from the tournament with three points in three draws.
2. September 9, 1972: USSR 51-USA 50
It would not be possible to fit all the theatrics that gave the USSR the gold in the 1972 basketball tournament into this slide. Doug Collins' two free throws put America up 50-49 over the Soviets with 0:03 left. From there, the Soviets had three separate controversy-filled events that led to a full-court layup, giving them the gold and the U.S. their first ever Olympic loss in 37 games. The members of the American team still refuse to accept their silver medals.
1. February 22, 1980: USA 4-USSR 3
You guessed it. The college kids from the U.S. beating the virtual pros from the Soviet Union in the medal round of the 1980 Lake Placid Games will forever live in the lore of American sports history for both athletic and political reasons.
Honorable Mentions: USA 1-Costa Rica 0 (2013 FIFA World Cup Qualifying); USA 181.863-Russia 180.429 (2012 Olympics Women’s Team Gymnastics); Japan 2(3)-USA 2(1) (2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final-Penalty Kicks); Argentina 89-USA 81 (2004 Olympic Basketball Semifinals); USA 2-Colombia 1 (1994 FIFA World Cup); USA 117-Croatia 85 (1992 Olympic Basketball Gold Medal Game)