Do You Believe In Miracles? U.S. Men's Soccer Stages Clutch Coup

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Do You Believe In Miracles? U.S. Men's Soccer  Stages  Clutch Coup
(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Shades of 1980 bled onto the pitch.

It was an improbable task for a team in shambles and a coach fixed firmly to the hot seat. Few if any observers could have envisioned a legitimate turnaround.

Could the U.S. men's soccer team really upset Egypt and earn a spot in the FIFA Confederations Cup semifinals?

Leave it up to the boys in the Stars and Stripes to duct-tape the mouths of all doubters worldwide. The Americans shocked the world again, and one watching the U.S. perform Sunday couldn't help but remember what the U.S. hockey team did 29 years ago in Lake Placid, N.Y.

For faithful fans, it was a rare chance to smile and sweat out the best U.S. performance in months.

With the U.S. needing a significant amount of help to advance out of the group stages of the Confederations Cup, the lottery balls bounced its way. Every single one of them.

It was time the Americans had some luck—a goal off the face of the most impressive keeper in the tournament so far would be dubbed a stroke of good luck. Prior to the meeting with Egypt, the U.S. had been handed two straight red cards against Italy and Brazil.

Everything came together Sunday in South Africa. Every single pass, clear, square, shot and save rolled the way of the formerly woeful Americans. It was their day in the sun, and boy, did they bask in it.

Not even an obvious handball within the box, missed by New Zealand ref Michael Hester, would come back to haunt the Yanks—not on this day.

While the Brazilians samba'd their way into a full-out demolition of the defending World Cup champions with three goals in the first 45 minutes, the Americans ran into a team fresh off the high of besting the Azzurri. Egypt had been viewed as the Cinderella story of this otherwise blasé tournament so far.

The Pharaohs were wrapped and entombed from the start. The Stars and Stripes outhustled and outhearted the team that supposedly had more than any other team in this tournament.

Landon Donovan constantly galloped through an overwhelmed Egypt midfield and defense. He at last looked like the star that the U.S. has lacked on the world stage.

A timely header from Clint Dempsey put the Americans up 3-0 in the 71st minute. American fans had been waiting to see such a flash of brilliance from their most successful overseas star.

Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit kept inserted keeper Brad Guzan from breaking a sweat for most of the night.

Young, fiery midfielder Michael Bradley presented the ultimate Father's Day gift to his dad, Bob, with a wonderfully delivered second goal. Nothing like a gift to Dad that keeps him from opening the locker to find a dreaded pink slip.

Now? The U.S. head on to face the best team in the world.

This is Spain, the undisputed No. 1 team on the globe. The Spanish have won their last 15 contests. It's not Italy, it's not Brazil, but the Americans can look forward to a different day to tackle a completely different beast.

This victory marked a day to remember and ponder: It's never a safe bet to throw in the towel; it's never safe to assume you're down and out.

The Americans needed six goals on Sunday, but only needed to score three themselves. The others needed to come from the world's most exciting team, Brazil.

Thankfully, Kaka and Robinho continued to razzle and dazzle. Luis Fabiano scored two first-half goals, and an Italy own-goal added to the lead.

The Americans kept up their end of the bargain by delving deep and finding themselves.

Donovan and Dempsey, alongside the impressive midfield tandem of Ricardo Clark (no red this time around) and Bradley, purely outclassed a jumbled, tired, and confused Egypt squad that had been the talk of the tournament.

Now, the Americans can prepare to apply more duct tape to those who continue to doubt the tenacity and resolve they obviously have, but have yet to convey.

If not nothing else, the respirator and life support have been left on for a team that seemed destined for a self-inflicted implosion.

Manager Bob Bradley couldn't buy a performance, streaming back to the fortunate 2-2 tie in Guatemala that seemed to start a string of play that left the U.S. lost on the pitch and more importantly, lost toward each player in the starting 11.

The Americans, who may not be the most fun to watch, showed the tattoo that has seemed to be inked right across the throat of each U.S. soccer player over the years.

The "never-say-die" attitude exuded by former players such as Alexi Lalas and John Harkes reappeared today.

Once each match was firmly established at 3-0, television viewers couldn't help but remember the call and see the now ancient-looking clock that ticked from second to second in Lake Placid.

Once the Brazilians got their end of the deal polished off and in the books, the Stars and Stripes and, essentially, the entire world viewed as each second ticked off the clock. There would be no first five-minute goal on this day, nor a stoppage-time dagger.

Instead, each second vanished into obscurity as the Americans asserted themselves as the newest Cinderella to attend this ball.

As Al Michaels so famously called it, the question for all those watching was this: Do you believe in miracles?

In the sporting world, miracles come along every so often, and the soccer world will remember June 21, 2009. On this day, the team that allegedly had no chance proved everyone wrong.

The same team that was left for dead, the same slew of players and organization that was deemed atrocious, politely raised one finger toward their faces and whispered hush to all the cynics worldwide—with their own miracle manifested.

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