Video: Landon Donovan and the 10 Biggest Game Winners Ever
Great moments are set up by great drama, and you could not have asked for more with the U.S. national soccer team in Wednesday's FIFA World Cup game against Algeria.
They had been robbed of a game winner against Slovenia. They had to win to get in.
They had so many opportunities in the middle of the game that didn't happen. At the same time, they knew England was up on Slovenia, so there would be no advancing without a goal.
That's what was in front of them. Then you add in the bigger picture of what it would mean for U.S. soccer and the future of the sport in the country. What it would mean to the team.
They went into extra time knowing this could be the last four minutes this team ever played together. Four years of work was about to be washed away.
Then in one magical moment, the play developed, the ball went in, and the U.S. went from bad-luck losers to first place in their group, moving on to the knockout stage.
The goal was scored by the biggest U.S. star in the sport, Landon Donovan.
It was just perfect, a moment to savor for all time.
But just where does Donovan's goal stand in the history of epic game winners?
No. 10 Michael Crabtree vs. Texas
I know it's a tall argument to make, but did you ever expert Texas Tech to take down the Longhorns? Of course you didn't.
Texas was all but locked into the win. The play was perfectly defended, and yet Crabtree came up with the catch and somehow tiptoed the sideline to stay in bounds and win the game.
Double coverage, he still came down with the ball and had 10 yards to fight ahead to get the score.
It was an epic moment that is a top-10 memory for college football. But its significance never really cut across sports.
No. 9 Tom Watson's U.S. Open Chip In
It was fitting to see Tom Watson return to the scene of one of the greatest moments in golf history last weekend.
The 16-foot chip from horrific rough on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach vaulted him into the annals of sports history as one of the most clutch shots ever.
We got a hero that day. The good guy won.
While it was an incredible moment, it had very little cultural significance beyond the sport.
No. 8 Santonio Holmes
It's more recent, but it's hard to argue that as we age, we won't look back on Holmes' catch as one of the greatest game winners in history.
If the Cardinals won, all of their ugly history would've been erased. Instead, Ben Roethlisberger becomes a two-time super bowl winner, while the Cards continue a franchise history of woe.
No. 7 The Immaculate Reception
This is a moment that changed the histories of two franchises.
Franco Harris was in the right place at the right time as Frenchy Fuqua collided with the Raiders' Jack Tatum defending a pass.
Harris caught the deflected pass and ran it in to win the AFC divisional playoff for the Steelers.
It was selected by NFL Films as the greatest play in the history of the NFL.
Tough to argue against it. It salvaged the hopes of a fan base.
Donovan's goal hasn't made soccer a top-tier fan sport yet, but experts say the U.S. making the knockout stage could mean billions of dollars of marketing and development that go into the future of the sport.
Harris has an incredible memory, as do Steelers fans. But it wasn't worth billions.
No. 6 The Catch
Look at that play with current ESPN Axis technology, and you will marvel even more that Joe Montana was able to find a spot for Dwight Clark to make the catch.
How in the world did Clark get that high and still manage to come down?
The drama of the 1982 NFC Championship Game against the Cowboys was almost unbearable. Lead changes, heroes stepping up in all the key spots, great defense at clutch moments.
It all led up to that moment, which was the beginning of the legend of Montana.
Clark wasn't even the primary receiver on the play. It was supposed to be Freddie Solomon's moment.
It's an all-time play, for sure. It epitomizes never giving up. But it doesn't quite stack up to Donovan's goal.
No. 5 The Shot Heard 'Round the World
Bobby Thomson's home run was the culmination of an epic comeback by the New York Giants.
The homer gave the Giants a 5-4 to take the pennant over the ever-dominant Brooklyn Dodgers, 2 games to 1.
Ralph Branca didn't give up those moments. That's what made the Oct. 3, 1951 homer all the more special.
It was the ultimate pick me up for troops listening in Korea over Armed Forces Radio, hence the nickname.
No. 4 Michael Jordan's Last Shot as a Bull
Poor Byron Russell. To have to watch this over and over again and watch yourself get so faked out, that's depressing. (We're giving Craig Ehlo a break in this list.)
Talk about going out on top. This is Michael Jordan. It's all he ever did in the biggest moments.
We all just wish it had ended right there. Maybe it did. Maybe the whole Wizards era was just a bad dream.
No. 3 Lorenzo Charles and The Wolfpack
The idea of underdog NC State Wolfpack beating mighty Houston was unimaginable.
But there they were. Jim Valvano's team hung around and hung around.
It all led up to a 52-52 tie with seconds to go. Lorenzo Charles dunking a 30-foot shot from Derrick Whittenburg turned Jimmy V into a cult hero.
It is one of the all-time examples of the little guy seizing the moment. Laettner's shot against Kentucky was amazing, but it was two giants. This was David and Goliath.
As Jimmy V's health went downhill in a battle with cancer, we appreciated what happened that day all the more.
There's no arguing the magic that the moment created for the tournament. That an underdog could win like that just helped grow March Madness into the billion-dollar business it is today.
No. 2 Donovan's Goal
I don't deal in hyperbole.
But watching that game Wednesday was one of the defining moments of my life as a sports fan.
It just seemed to be getting away and getting away. Nothing was going right. It was shaping up to be just another crushing blow for the hopes of American soccer fans everywhere.
The future of the sport in the U.S. changed in a moment. There's no doubting that.
But the U.S. should have beaten Algeria. They were overcoming history, but in this match, they were the favorites.
It's the only thing keeping me from completely losing perspective and making this No. 1.
No. 1 The Miracle On Ice
It was so improbable. The Russians didn't get beat. It just didn't happen, especially by a young and inexperienced U.S. team.
But there it was. Mike Eruzione's goal to give the U.S. the win in Lake Placid spawned one of the greatest calls ever in "Do you believe in miracles? YES!"
Moreover, it was the little guy in the Cold War taking down the superpower.
The win sparked a huge upturn in hockey interest and led to months if not years of American celebration.
Eruzione and his team are still among the most revered U.S. athletes ever.