On This Day: Gansler, Vermes, Bliss and Klopas lead USA to pivotal World Cup qualifying win in 1989

With the 2020 MLS season on temporary hold, SportingKC.com is taking daily strolls down memory lane with an "On This Day" web series that celebrates memorable moments in team history. As one of Major League Soccer's proud charter members, Sporting has a decorated past full of thrilling victories, amazing goals, momentous off-the-field developments and more. "On This Day" pays tribute to these specific instances, turning back the clocks while treating fans to nostalgia and club history lessons. To catch up on the series as it unfolds, visit SportingKC.com/OnThisDay.


Long before Bob Gansler, Peter Vermes, Brian Bliss and Frank Klopas arrived in Kansas City to make their mark in Major League Soccer, the quartet helped the United States Men's National Team reach the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 40 years.

With Gansler at the managerial helm and Vermes, Bliss and Klopas playing integral roles on the pitch, the United States navigated a successful World Cup qualifying campaign by securing a second-place finish in the 1989 Concacaf Championship. As the top two teams in the competition, the U.S. and Costa Rica would be Concacaf's representatives at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

U.S. MNT fanatics will best remember the 1989 Concacaf Championship for its thrilling finale on Nov. 19, which saw the U.S. venture to Trinidad and Tobago in a must-win situation. Paul Caligiuri scored "The Shot Heard around the World" and the Americans prevailed 1-0 to leapfrog Trinidad and Tobago for second place and punch their long-awaited World Cup ticket.

Almost seven months earlier, however, the U.S. claimed an equally crucial—if not equally unlikely—win on home soil to get their Concacaf Championship campaign kickstarted in earnest.

Thirty-one years ago today, on April 30, 1989, the Americans knocked off Costa Rica in a gritty battle at Saint Louis Soccer Park in Fenton, Missouri. A capacity crowd of 8,500 packed the venue as Gansler's men looked to avenge their 1-0 road loss to Costa Rica in the tournament opener just a fortnight earlier. Bliss would start and play 91 minutes, while Vermes came off the bench to replace Klopas shortly before halftime.

The contest remained scoreless until the 72nd minute when Tab Ramos' sweet half-volley nestled into the corner to give the hosts a 1-0 advantage. An even bigger play awaited in the dying embers, as goalkeeper David Vanole heroically saved Mauricio Montero's penalty kick to seal the momentous victory.

The U.S. went unbeaten over their final seven matches in the 1989 Concacaf Championship to finish level on points with champion Costa Rica, missing out on the title by virtue of goal difference. Nevertheless, Gansler, Vermes and Bliss would end up representing the United States at the World Cup the following summer.

The rest, as they say, is history. Gansler coached the Kansas City Wizards to a Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup double in 2000 and a U.S. Open Cup title in 2004. Vermes was the 2000 MLS Defender of the Year on Kansas City's championship team and has presided over Sporting as manager for the past dozen seasons, adding four major championships to the trophy cabinet. Bliss and Klopas both played for the club in the late 1990s, and Bliss now serves as Sporting's Technical Director and Vice President of Player Personnel.

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