Brian McBride was expected to lead the way for the United States in 2002 World Cup qualifying. He was their best striker and when the Americans squared off against Mexico on February 28, 2001 in the first match of the Hex, the attack was built around their striker.
That plan only lasted 11 minutes.
McBride clashed heads and had his right eye completely swollen shut. He had to come out of the match and the Americans’ had to figure out a new plan of attack on the fly against their most hated rivals.
It should have been a disaster for the U.S., but it wasn’t. That’s because Josh Wolff came to the rescue.
The 24-year-old Wolff replaced McBride and proceeded to give Mexico fits. He nearly scored minutes after coming on, only to be denied by a block. He drew a card and nearly put Earnie Stewart in on goal all in one play.
Shortly after halftime, Wolff put the U.S. in front. He got in behind the entire Mexico defense, beat Jorge Campos and tapped the ball into the empty net. Finally, late in the match he found himself trapped in the corner, but somehow beat two Mexico defenders, drew the rest of the defense then delivered a pass for Stewart to knock into an empty net.
Wolff wasn’t even supposed to be on the field. The U.S. were supposed to be doomed without McBride. But instead McBride’s injury opened the door for Wolff, who was the hero and earned the Americans their very first 2-0 win over Mexico at Crew Stadium.