World Cup Memories: Best environment at Cup? Sporting Kansas City's Peter Vermes lived it

There are now just 16 days until the World Cup in Brazil and, fortunately for the US national team, they'll avoid the home team during the group stage.

That wasn't the case back in 1990, when a young, inexperienced US side walked into Rome's Olympic Stadium to face a the Azzurri at Italia 90. Still smarting from a 5-1 loss to Czech Republic in the opener, the wide-eyed Americans were being fed to soccer lions in the shadow of the old Colosseum.

Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes survived to tell the tale. It was just a 1-0 loss and Vermes nearly tied it at 1-1 in the second half — his greatest-ever World Cup moment:

Walking into the stadium for our game against Italy. The atmosphere was incredible. It was an amazing environment. I don't know how else to explain it. You're playing in the World Cup. It's in Italy, and you're playing against Italy in Rome. I don't know what better environment you're going to get at a World Cup.

We played really well. And I think there was a time period where we connected like 25, 30-some passes, and that was pretty good for us back then. And then the fact that we kept it close. The one I always get asked about is the chance that I had in the second half. That was an opportunity.

If you look at their team and compare it to our team, there's no comparison in regards to where they were playing and where we were playing. All their players were playing in Serie A in Italy, and we're playing – I think I was, myself and maybe one other guy, were the only ones playing overseas at the time. Everybody else was maybe playing in the APSL, which was third-division at the time. So it wasn't the same.

I always talk about the situation where we have a corner kick, and [ex-USMNT international] Chris Sullivan came on the field. It was a defensive corner kick. And so we both drop back to mark up the guys that are in the box, and I remember telling him that I got [Gianluca] Vialli and he tells me he's got so-and-so, and we just looked at each other like, "Yeah, we got these guys." It was funny to be able to say that, because they were world-class players at the time.

But if you look around MLS, and you look over the last 24 years now – how much impact those guys have had and continue to have in the game. And that's a good thing, because we should. We should be a part of the evolution of the game, and we should give back some of our experiences.

What is the most intimidating home field advantage in international soccer? Italy in Rome? Brazil in the Maracanã? Argentina in La Bombonera? Give us your feedback below.


Alexi Lalas: Legend's all-time favorite moment was a hand ball

Clint Dempsey: Childhood dreams come true with a single goal

Bruce Arena: First World Cup game? Only one of the biggest upsets in history

Landon Donovan: Baggio's missed PK in '94 leaves profound impact on US great

Kyle Beckerman: The Saudi Arabian who inspired RSL's World Cup hopeful

Jason deVos: 1986ers pave the way for future Canadian national team star

Will Johnson: Timbers captain experiences agony and ecstasy in 120 minutes in 1998

Michael Bradley: The miracle comeback that he helped author in South Africa 2010

Carlos Valderrama: The goal that brings goosebumps to every Colombian

Clint Mathis: The Mohawk and the Red Sea in South Korea

Robbie Keane: Lady Luck shines on Republic of Ireland in 2002

Tim Cahill: RBNY star goes down in the history books in 2006

Grant Wahl: How the 1998 final shaped a Sports Illustrated writer's career

Jermain Defoe: Consolation for not making it to Brazil? His goal in 2010

Nick Rimando: RSL 'keeper fulfills a dream hatched in Pasadena in 1994

Stay connected: Get access to breaking news, videos, and analysis from North America's best soccer reporters via "This Week in MLS" newsletter or using our FREE mobile app.