United States


The US national team, often abbreviated USMNT, was led by a man by the name of Lothar Osiander. As his name would suggest, the 48 year old (coming into the World Cup qualification) was born in Germany, although he came to the US with his family as an 18 year old, and he had been an American citizen for 23 years already. He had taken charge of the national team in the wake of its failure to reach Mexico ’86, as he took over the reins from predecessor Alkis Panagouliasas, a Greek. Osiander took them through to the 1988 Olympic Games football tournament in Seoul, South Korea, where in September they would ultimately draw twice and only lose to future champions Soviet Union. 

Assisting Osiander was Ralph Pérez.

The World Cup qualification commenced prior to the Olympic Games, though. USA had been given a bye for the first qualifying round, and were then paired with Jamaica for the second and final qualifying round before the qualification group stage, which also doubled as the 1988 CONCACAF championship. There was a 20 day gap between the two legs, and five weeks later USA played their first Olympic fixture against Argentina. 

In preparation for the World Cup qualification and indeed the Olympics, Osiander had a nine games long set of friendlies played out over the course of just two months. In fact, seven of these occured in the first two weeks of June. However, they were rarely featuring their major players, so just how much effect they got from this huge load of friendlies in such a short spell remains unclear. 

World Cup appearances:
1930, 1934, 1950

Lothar Osiander



14.05.1988: USA 0-2 Colombia
Line-up: Vanole – Krumpe, Trittschuh, Doyle, Banks, Diffley, Davis, Gabarra (Eichmann), Vermes, Goulet (Murray), Borja (Klopas)

01.06.1988: USA 1-1 Chile
Goal: Eichmann
Line-up: Fuchs – Doyle, Balboa, Velazco, James (Megson), Fraser, Sullivan (Fox), Grimes (Murray), Eichmann, Pastor (Kirk), Gabarra

03.06.1988: USA 1-3 Chile
Goal: Borja (pen.)
Line-up: Dodd – Fraser, Balboa, Velazco, James (Kirk), Megson (Sullivan), Fox (Cogsville), Borja, Eichmann, Pastor, Murray

05.06.1988: USA 0-3 Chile
Line-up: Fuchs – Fraser, Trittschuh, Gillen (Pastor), Banks (Covone), Cogsville (Fox), Diffley, Grimes, Eichmann, Kirk, Collins (Sullivan)

07.06.1988: USA 0-1 Ecuador
Line-up: Meola – Gillen (Grimes), Balboa, Trittschuh, Diffley, Cogsville, Fox, Borja, Klopas, Collins, Kerr

10.06.1988: USA 0-2 Ecuador
Line-up: Vanole – Balboa, Trittschuh, Windischmann, Klopas (Diffley), Davis, Gabarra, Murray, Vermes, Pastor (Fraser), Eichmann

12.06.1988: USA 0-0 Ecuador
Line-up: Duback – Krumpe, Trittschuh, Windischmann (Balboa), Bliss (Diffley), Fox (Fraser), Davis, Gabarra, Kirk (Eichmann), Vermes, Murray

14.06.1988: USA 1-0 Costa Rica
Goal: Ryerson (pen.)
Line-up: Dodd – Agoos, Gillen, Grimes, Onalfo, Covone, Cogsville (Luzniak), Raphael (S. Snow), Ryerson, K. Snow (Sullivan), Thompson

13.07.1988: USA 0-2 Poland
Line-up: Duback – Doyle, Trittschuh (Banks), Windischmann, Bliss, Krumpe, Stollmeyer, Gabarra, Klopas, Vermes, Murray (Armstrong)

World Cup qualifying second knock-out round

First leg
Jamaica 0-0 USA
Line-up: Vanole – Armstrong (Trittschuh 76), Crow, Doyle, Windischmann, Davis, Stollmeyer, Bliss, Klopas, Vermes, Murray (Borja 61)

Second leg
USA 5-1 Jamaica
Goals: Bliss, Pérez (pen.), Klopas 2, Krumpe
Line-up (4-3-3): Vanole – Armstrong, Crow, Trittschuh, Windischmann (Pérez h-t) – Krumpe, Davis (c), Bliss – Klopas, Vermes, Gabarra (Murray 64)

USA through to the qualification group stage with a 5-1 aggregate score.

A 30 minutes long clip is available via Youtube, although it only contains about 25 minutes from the first half, so one needs to watch this reel in order to get a view of all six goals. The game takes place at a packed St. Louis Soccer Park in Missouri (6100 crowd), and the temperature around kick-off is 27 C. After that scoreless draw in the first leg, the US were favourites to progress through, although the commentators make sure to point out that the US team were not quite used to such a tag. If they lost, it would “set the [soccer] programme back two or three years”, according to head coach Lothar Osiander. 

They are two 4-3-3 units going at one another. USA have the solid David Vanole as their first choice goalkeeper, a position which he’s been holding for more than two years at this point. At the back, Kevin Crow is the spare man, while Mike Windischmann is seen operating the left-sided defensive flank, with Desmond Armstrong initially holding the right-back position. Steve Trittschuh appears to be marking Ramon Christian. Captain Rick Davis is the centre midfielder among the three, with Paul Krumpe to his right and the energetic Brian Bliss to his left. 21 year old Frankie Klopas, a youngster of which big things are expected, operates the right-sided forward role, with Peter Vermes in the middle and Jim Gabarra, sporting his terrific mullet, to the left. Vermes, incidentally, is constantly tracked by Jamaica centre-back Frederick Thompson.

The visitors have Barrington Gaynor at right- and Dave Brooks at left-back, with captain Anthony Corbett the spare man in the heart of their defence, with Thompson the man-marker. Their central midfielder is Carl Grant, who has Winston Anglin and Alton Sterling ahead of him to his right and left respectively. The three up top are Dennis Hudson (right), Ramon Christian (centre) and Michael Tulloch (left). 

The footage which we’re privy to contains not a whole lot in terms of quality, although there are opportunities in both directions. Gabarra has a speculative effort not too far wide, while both Anglin and Christian arrive at chances down the other side. Windischmann at one point needs to bail his ‘keeper out by a late saving block. 

The only first half goal comes from the US’ Bliss, who neatly side-foots home following some fine work by the agile Vermes to the right inside the area, with Corbett unable to block the cross. 

After the break, Vermes twice hits the woodwork at 1-0, before a low free-kick from just outside the box sees Sterling tie the score at one-all. Midway through the half, exciting attacking midfielder Hugo Pérez, a half-time substitute, restores the home side’s lead following a penalty which he’d earned himself after tripping over Brooks’ foot. From then onwards it turns into a rout with a brace from Klopas and a goal from Krumpe, two of them set up by substitute Bruce Murray. 

USA at the 1988 Olympic Games

18.09.1988: USA 1-1 Argentina
Goal: Windischmann
Line-up: Vanole – Krumpe, Crow, Armstrong, Bliss, Ramos (Harkes), Davis, Caligiuri, Vermes, Goulet (Windischmann), Murray

20.09.1988: South Korea 0-0 USA
Line-up: Vanole – Krumpe, Crow, Armstrong, Bliss, Harkes (Stollmeyer), Davis, Caligiuri, Klopas, Goulet, Ramos (Doyle)

22.09.1988: USA 2-4 Soviet Union
Goals: Goulet, Doyle
Line-up: Vanole – Krumpe (Armstrong), Crow, Doyle, Bliss, Davis, Stollmeyer (Goulet), Caligiuri, Klopas, Vermes, Murray 

A very credible opening day draw against Argentina, whose Olympic side may not have been as good as their ‘A’ select, but still. Then they followed that up with a goalless draw against the host nation, and an expected loss against the Soviet Union, who had a very strong team. The Soviets were 4-0 up before Goulet and Doyle pulled each their goal back. This meant that USA bowed out after the group stage. 

Managerial change

The Olympic football tournament became Osiander and Pérez’ final matches in charge of the USMNT, and by medio January 1989 a 47 year old Hungary born man of German descent, Bob Gansler, took over. He had led the country’s U20 team for the two previous years. 

World Cup qualifying group stage

Match 1
16.04.1989: Costa Rica 1-0 USA
Line-up (4-3-3): Duback – Balboa, Windischmann (c), Trittschuh, Bliss – Harkes, Stollmeyer, Ramos (Klopas 75) – Vermes, Goulet (Gabarra 80), Murray

Match 2  
30.04.1989: USA 1-0 Costa Rica

Match 3
13.05.1989: USA 1-1 Trinidad & Tobago

Match 4
17.06.1989: USA 2-1 Guatemala

Match 5 
17.09.1989: El Salvador 0-1 USA

Match 6
08.10.1989: Guatemala 0-0 USA

Match 7 
05.11.1989: USA 0-0 El Salvador

Match 8
19.11.1989: Trinidad & Tobago 0-1 USA

1989 international friendlies

04.06.1989: USA 3-0 Peru
Goals: Bliss, Ramos, Murray
Line-up: Meola – Banks, Windischmann, Trittschuh, Bliss, Harkes, Stollmeyer, Ramos, Eichmann, Gyau (Pastor), Murray (Gabarra)

24.06.1989: USA 0-1 Colombia
Line-up: Vanole (Meola) – Banks, Windischmann, Trittschuh, Bliss, Harkes, Stollmeyer (Doyle), Caligiuri (Pastor), Eichmann, Murray, Gabarra (Gyau)

13.08.1989: USA 1-2 South Korea
Goal: Harkes
Line-up: Vanole – Banks (Trittschuh), Balboa, Windischmann, Doyle, Harkes, Stollmeyer, Bliss (Gabarra), Eichmann, Murray (S. Snow), Caligiuri

14.11.1989: USA 2-1 Bermuda
Goals: Doyle, Eichmann
Line-up: Meola – Krumpe, Windischmann, Trittschuh (Doyle), Banks, Harkes (Eichmann), Caligiuri (Stollmeyer), Ramos, Vermes, Murray (Eck), Pérez (Bliss)

In 1988, the US’ friendlies had had quite experimental line-ups, and while this to a degree continued in this batch of 1989 friendlies, they were also certainly looking stronger and more competitive in terms of the sides which they put out. 

Players like Hugo Pérez and Rick Davis were said to be some of the USMNT’s biggest assets, though they were unable to showcase their talent on a consistent level. They were both struggling with injuries.

Young goalkeeper Tony Meola (turned 20 in Feb ’89) was starting to stake a claim for a place in the squad (at the very least), although ousting the experienced David Vanole seemed a difficult task. Seasoned defenders Mike Windischmann and Steve Trittschuh had been regulars even during these friendlies, and a relatively reliable young defender by the name of Desmond Armstrong was also looking a likely candidate for a starting berth. The versatile Brian Bliss was capable of slotting in at various positions, preferably as the left-sided alternative in a midfield three or at left-back, while John Stollmeyer’s clever head saw him fit for the deeper among the three midfield roles. John Harkes would also be there or thereabouts in terms of starting line-ups, and Paul Caligiuri would also fill in when available. In addition, they had the immensely gifted Tab Ramos, of Uruguayan heritage, for one of the midfield berths. They seemed well equipped in this department. 

Up front, in a trio of forwards, Peter Vermes, of Hungarian parents, was consistently featuring, and so too was Bruce Murray. Brent Goulet was another player who seemed to struggle with injuries, and so didn’t take part as often as he and/or the national team management would’ve been hoping. A player of some promise in Frank Klopas had looked a favourite of Lothar Osiander’s, and he provided yet another option also under the new regime, as did Jim Gabarra, who was also capable of slotting in in midfield. 

Altogether, they had plenty of players available to them, but were they good enough to compete with top nations from other continents?