Mike Windischmann (pictured) was a starter on the only U.S. squad to get a point at Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier. (Photo: Michael Lewis)
By Michael Lewis
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – At only 19-years-old, Mike Windischmann played in a World Cup qualifier for the United States in Costa Rica. He was a starter on the only American squad to gain a point there and that is saying something, especially when you consider the U.S. has lost its other seven qualifying encounters in the storied rivalry.
An amateur at that time, the Adelphi University defender played a pivotal role in the match, setting up the lone U.S. goal in a 1-1 draw.
Windischmann and his teammates were not intent on making history on May 25, 1985. They were more interested in securing a positive result in the CONCACAF World Cup semifinal series to boost their objective of playing at Mexico 1986.
"A lot of times when you go to places, they give you history, you never won there, but we didn't think about that," Windischmann said in a telephone interview earlier this week. "We realized you're got to go and just get some points away and try to qualify.”
Windischmann, who eventually captained the U.S. at the 1990 World Cup finals, came to realize the passion Costa Rican supporters possess for their national team…especially the night before the game.
"Like playing the loud music that you could hear it at the hotel," commented Windischmann.
It continued into the next morning as the team prepared for the game, which had a 10 a.m. kickoff at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in front of 25,000 home supporters in Alajuela.
"It's funny because I remember being in the hotel and the game was at 10 o’clock," he said. "We got up early for the National Team breakfast. I turned on the TV and it was six o’clock in the morning and I thought it was a repeat from another game and the fans were already in the stadium at six in the morning. They were all getting ready, cheering.”
The U.S. team arrived at the stadium knowing that it needed to focus on winning, while putting aside all distractions.
"It was very hot down there, so we had to get ready to play," Windichsmann noted.
The host grabbed the lead in the 42nd minute. Goalkeeper Arnie Mausser fumbled a low cross as Costa Rica's Oscar Ramirez scored during a goal-mouth scramble.
"We kind of forgot about the goal and tried to get the equalizer," continued Windischmann.
Only moments later, just before halftime, Windischmann, the left fullback, sent a long ball down the left flank. Jeff Hooker chased it down and crossed to John Kerr, Jr., who volleyed it home for a 1-1 equalizer.
Windischmann remembered the goal "like it was yesterday," saying there was "euphoria" on the field.
"It was really exciting and like a lot of times on the road, you try to keep the score at 1-1," he said. "Costa Rica was trying to put pressure on. We did a pretty decent job of trying to stop their attack. The whistle blew and we had a 1-1 tie and we snuck a point out."
The Costa Ricans, however, would have the last word only five days later. They won 1-0 in the return match at Murdock Stadium on the campus of El Camino College in Torrance, California, a result that propelled them into the final round of CONCACAF qualifying and eliminated the Americans.
The U.S. had not qualified for a World Cup since 1950.
"I just realized the disappointment only days later," Windischmann concluded. "I realized that maybe I will get another chance qualifying with the national team again. But a lot of guys on that team, that was their last game. I believe a couple of weeks later we were supposed to play England. The whole roster changed. All those guys on the national team, disappointed, didn't want to play in that game, basically they were done with the national team. That was disappointing."