For the first time in the 2010 World Cup, the USA scored first, and the “Yanks” needed every single second to break the dead-lock.
None other than Landon Donovan, Mr. USA Soccer, came through when his team and country needed him the most. The saying goes, “better late than never!”
Well, one minute into stoppage time, he buried the ball in the back of the net with one swift kick, and changed the landscape of world football in the United States.
Throughout the entire tournament, the United States has been playing high quality opponents in England, our brothers across the pond and founders of the game; a tough and gritty Slovenia, who tossed aside European perennial powers, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia (who is still alive in the World Cup) and Poland to advance to the World Cup.
Many thought one win out of these two teams would suffice. The “Yanks” came away with just two points, and the doubters began to surface.
In the final match of the group stage, the USA hit the pitch against Algeria, a squad many thought might pull off an upset, or two, in group play. Those speculations came true last week, when Algeria fought to a scoreless draw with England, the pre-tournament favorite to advance.
Although, not many thought that the North African side could repeat their performance against the Red, White, and Blue. But Algeria nearly did.
Once again, the game seemed like Bob Bradley’s American side was not only going to fight against the 11 opponents on the field, but the referees as well. It was bad enough that three points were sacrificed in the Slovenia match, but in a must-win situation where points are at a premium, every chance is crucial.
USA’s third game nearly started just as the previous two group matches did, with an early goal. However, against Algeria, luck was on the USA’s side, as goalkeeper Tim Howard’s only defense, was to turn and listen for his best friend: the ball hitting the woodwork.
From that point on, the game turned into a back-and-forth affair. Chances a plenty went by the wayside for the United States. Post shots, missed opportunities, and even another good goal disallowed by the referees, put the United States behind the eight-ball.
With the score deadlocked at zeroes, word from the England-Slovenia match must have made its way to the USA staff. The United States now turned to survival mode.
With blood and sweat literally dripping down from both teams’ faces, desire and determination took over the squad wearing red, white, and blue. The minutes began to wind down, and each USA attack was turned away with more and more malice, and the fouls and yellow cards conceded closer and closer to Algeria’s net.
Fans in the stadium began to chant louder, rise up, and will their respective sides to victory. Then in the 90th minute Algeria had a dangerous attack that concluded with a forceful header, saved by USA goalie Tim Howard. Howard was calm, cool and collected as he quickly tossed the ball to "Mr. America,” Landon Donovan.
From that point, the USA attack was vigorous with Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, and Clint Dempsey occupying defenders in the box as Donovan raced up the field. A quick pass to Altidore was not the last time No. 10 would touch the ball on this attack.
Altidore and Dempsey linked up on a cross, and Dempsey found the Algerian goalie again.
It was at this very moment when the stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, countless households across the United States, and bars from all edges of the world, erupted in unbridled celebration.
Landon Donovan saved the United States from elimination.
The face of USA soccer raced to the corner flag, with teammates chasing, and slid headfirst just like “Superman,” This moment began the eruption of emotions from a hard-fought battle filled with desire, determination, and ultimate survival along a rigorous four-year journey.
Although Donovan is not the captain of the squad (that role is filled by Carlos Bocanegra), on this date, Donovan was “Captain America” and “Superman,” wrapped into one 5'8" American soccer player.
On this day, Landon Donovan and the national team turned an American football country into a world football country, with one swift kick!
The never-say-die attitude of the United States team throughout this tournament is an attribute that not only American citizens can hold true and take to heart, but all fans and spectators who have witnessed this wild journey.
Today, Donovan made this country a soccer country!