Through "CONCACAF Retro" you will revisit the region's most memorable people, events and crowning achievements.
U.S. captures bronze at FIFA Five-A-Side World Championship
After appearances in three invitational international indoor soccer tournaments (Hungary, Spain and Brazil), the United States competed and finished third at the first-ever FIFA Five-A-Side World Championship (now Futsal World Cup) in the Netherlands from January 6-15, 1989.
Under the direction of head coach John Kowalski, the Stars & Stripes won six of eight matches at the 16-team event on their way to the bronze medal.Additionally, it marked the first time since the 1930 World Cup that a men's national team from the U.S. finished third at a FIFA event.
"Despite not being so successful in the previous (invitational) tournaments, we (the team) still had the attitude that we knew were going to do well in this inaugural FIFA Five-A-Side World Championship," said Kowalski, who is currently coaching the women's soccer team at Robert Morris College in Moon Township, Pennsylvania."Our goal was to not leave the Netherlands without a medal."
The Stars & Stripes achieved that objective with a roster composed of professional indoor players from the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) and nine members of the full U.S. Men's National Team, which was in the process of qualifying for the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy.
"The outdoor soccer members had also previously played in the MISL, so we developed a system that enabled us to cross over into FIFA's Five-A-Side (now Futsal) in order to play a style formation that proved to be very effective for us in the tournament."
Effective indeed as the Stars & Stripes opened the competition with a six-game unbeaten streak, starting with a 1-1 draw against Australia in Group D on January 6 at Amsterdam's Sporthallen Zuid.Midfielder Eric Eichmann, who netted the first goal in the program's history three years earlier, scored the first U.S. goal at the world championships before Australia equalized.
One day later, Kowalski's side got on the winning track with a 5-1 victory over Zimbabwe in Arnhem's Rijnal Arena.Forward Peter Vermes scored twice, while midfielders Bruce Murray, Tab Ramos and defender Mike Windischmann each added a goal.
The U.S. concluded the first round with a 4-1 win over Italy on Jan. 8, also at Rijnal Arena. The encounter was highlighted by A.J. Lachowecki becoming the first-ever (CONCACAF & USA) goalkeeper to score a goal at a FIFA tournament.
"He (Lachowecki) scored when the ball was passed back to him and he was under pressure," recalled Kowalski, "so he fired a shot that went over the head of the Italian goalkeeper in the opening 12 minutes of the match."
Midfielder Jim Gabarra added two more goals, while forward Brent Goulet closed out the scoring for the Americans, who secured first place in Group D and advanced to the next round.
The U.S. opened the Second Round - Group E with a 3-1 win over Argentina at Rotterdam's Sportpaleis Ahoy on Jan. 10.After trailing in the first half, Vermes, Ramos and forward Juli Veee scored three unanswered goals in the second stanza for the victory.
The next day, the Stars & Stripes earned their first-ever shutout victory in the program's history after topping Paraguay, 2-0, at Rijnal Arena; Vermes and Gabarra had the goals.
With a semifinal berth assured, the U.S. completed the second round with a 5-3 triumph over Brazil on Jan. 12 at the Sportpaleis Ahoy. Eichmann, Gabarra, Goulet, Ramos and defender Doc Lawson all scored in a winning effort.That result proved to be the last time a team from CONCACAF would defeat the Samba Kings at the FIFA Five-A-Side Tournament.
The unbeaten streak came to an end in the semifinals as the U.S. dropped a 2-1 decision to the host on Jan. 14 at the Sportpalei Ahoy with Gabarra scoring the only goal in the loss.
The Stars & Stripes recovered quickly for the next day's third-place match, posting a dramatic 3-2 victory over Belgium after extra time at the Sportpaleis Ahoy. A Windischmann tally, accompanied by two goals from Vermes, sparked the U.S. comeback after falling behind 2-1.
"It (the bronze medal) was a tribute to everyone on this team," said Kowalski. "This was an all-out effort and the players deserve every credit for beating some of the best soccer nations in the world."
Along with the bronze medal, the U.S. was also presented with the FIFA Tournament's first Fair Play Award, while Vermes finished tied for third in the scoring table with six goals.
USA Roster - 1989 FIFA Five-A-Side World Championship
GOALKEEPERS:A.J. Lachowecki (Los Angeles Lazers-MISL), David Vanole (Los Angeles Heat)
DEFENDERS: Doc Lawson (Dallas Sidekicks-MISL), Steve Trittschuh (St. Louis Busch Seniors AC), Michael Windischmann (Brooklyn Italians SC)
MIDFIELDERS: Eric Eichmann (Fort Lauderdale Strikers), Jim Gabarra (Los Angeles Lazers-MISL), Tab Ramos (Brooklyn Italians SC), Bruce Murray (FC Luzern/SUI), Peter Smith (no club)
ATTACKERS: Brent Goulet (AFC Bournemouth/ENG), Juli Veee (San Diego Sockers-MISL), Peter Vermes (Raba ETO/HUN)
TD: John KOWALSKI
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