Claudio Reyna understands the pressure of the World Cup.
As the former captain of the U.S. National Team, he knows what it's like shouldering the responsibility of "building" interest in soccer in America, and how that opportunity only comes around every four years.
So when the U.S. defeated Algeria, 1-0, on a last-minute goal by Landon Donovan Wednesday and took first place in Group C ahead of rival England, Reyna could not have been prouder.
"It's amazing," Reyna said. "You can see the lift it gives the sport. These guys, every four years there's so much pressure to do something and they were able to do it. Especially this World Cup, because of the group, the expectations were that they would get out and they've done that, so it's a great achievement."
Reyna was in New York Wednesday to help host the charity event, "Showdown in Chinatown," which features an 8-on-8 soccer game with NBA stars and soccer pros. Phoneix Suns guard Steven Nash is the driving force behind the event, which benefits Nash's foundation. Reyna's "Orange" team included Tony Parker, Raja Bell and Brandon Jennings.
The New Jersey native is one of only two Americans to have played in four World Cups -- in 1994 through 2006. He has played 10 World Cup games as a central midfielder. The all-time record is 11, held by Earnie Stewart and Cobi Jones, but Landon Donovan is set to play in his 12th this Saturday against Ghana. Reyna also held the U.S. record for minutes played (849), but Donovan has broken that record as well with 974 and counting.
Reyna admires the team's cohesiveness as much as anything else.
"The best thing I love is the team spirit they have now, " he said. "It really makes a huge difference. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you're not a team ..."
Nash, an avid soccer fan, also admired the United States' effort in the win.
"Algeria sat back really deep so for them to stay patient and make it happen in the last minute was phenomenal," the two-time MVP said. "I'm happy for the team."
Nash, however, is an England supporter and was happy to see the Three Lions advance, as well.
Parker, however, could not exude the same pride. The French guard for the San Antonio Spurs wasn't too pleased with his country's performance. France went 0-2-1 and exited the tournament after scoring just one goal in three games.
"It's been bad," Parker said. "It's very bad with France and very disappointing. It's tough. You play against a lot of good teams with South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay. Those were three very good teams, but it's very disappointing."