JEONJU, South Korea (AP) -- The United States has arrived among the world soccer powers, pulling off upsets and defying expectations. Even President Bush has noticed.
Brian McBride and Landon Donovan scored on counterattacks to lead the Americans to a 2-0 victory over Mexico on Monday and into the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
"When I got to the locker room, I said, 'This is really weird," Donovan said. "It's like it's not happening. It's like a dream."
It is the best showing for the U.S. team since the first World Cup in 1930, when it beat Belgium and Paraguay in the first round, then lost to Argentina 6-1 in the semifinals.
Before the game, Bush called the team and told coach Bruce Arena he was confident the Americans would win.
"The country is really proud of the team," Bush said. "A lot of people that don't know anything about soccer, like me, are all excited and pulling for you."
The American players, unaccustomed to attention in their own country, were surprised when they found out the president was on the speaker phone.
"We were thinking -- which president?" Donovan said. "That was awesome. You could tell he genuinely cared."
The United States next plays on Friday against Germany, a three-time World Cup champion that pushed the Americans around during a 2-0 victory in the first round at the 1998 World Cup, when the U.S. team finished last in the 32-nation field.
"They used to call us the sleeping giant in the old days. I think the sleeping giant has woken up," U.S. Soccer Federation president Bob Contiguglia said. "Someone said to me this is the World Cup for the minnows. The minnows are becoming bigger fish."
It was a shattering loss for Mexico, which dominated its North American neighbor on the soccer field until recent years. The United States was 0-21-3 against the Mexicans from 1937-80, but since 1991 the Americans have gone 9-6-5. This was the teams' first meeting in a World Cup.
"We played very good football, but in football, you win by scoring goals and we didn't score any," Mexican forward Jared Borgetti said. "The United States has a very good team, very fast with a very dangerous counterattack."
While the Mexicans held the ball for almost 70 percent of the game, they couldn't get it past goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who had another brilliant performance for his first World Cup shutout. He got some help on a non-call.
Portuguese referee Vitor Melo Pereira failed to see U.S. midfielder John O'Brien punching the ball out of danger on a corner kick in the 57th minute, one of four corners in a three-minute span.
"A great header, wasn't it?" Friedel said with a smile. "The referee made the decision. I took a double-take, maybe. When I saw it, I didn't believe it. This happens in a game. We've been on the wrong side of a lot of decisions, too."
The Mexicans were incensed they weren't awarded a penalty kick.
"They showed the replay on the big screen and we saw it, 40,000 fans saw it," Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said.
O'Brien admitted his hand hit the ball, bringing back memories of the "Hand of God" goal by Argentina's Diego Maradona against England in the 1986 World Cup.
"It was a freak play," O'Brien said. "It was a situation where you're trying to mark your man, and someone comes up underneath you and hits your arm. I didn't do it on purpose."
McBride beat goalkeeper Oscar Perez from 12 yards out in the eighth minute after U.S. captain Claudio Reyna -- playing right midfield instead of in the center in Arena's revamped lineup -- made a fine run.
Reyna crossed to Josh Wolff, near the goal line, and Wolff flicked the ball back to an open McBride, who hit the left side of the net with a hard right-footed shot.
"I made it hoping he would be there, that he would be in that space," Wolff said.
McBride said: "I knew if there was an opportunity for me to get the ball, it was on a layback like that."
With the Mexicans pressing, Donovan scored in the 65th minute on a header from just inside the 6-yard box off a cross from Eddie Lewis, who had sped upfield. Donovan then whipped off his shirt to celebrate.
"It was all Eddie," Donovan said. "It's hard to miss balls like that."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.