-Dan Karell and Candice Rohrman
After missing out on so many opportunities, it seemed as if the United States would miss out on the next round of the World Cup.
Throughout the game against Algeria, team USA created chance after chance but somehow could not find the back of the net. However, with very little time remaining, thoughts that team USA would not be moving on were slowly becoming a reality.
Landon Donovan refused to let that happen.
The leader of the squad slotted a rebound in the 91st minute of the match, sending USA fans into pure jubilation.
“I’ve been through a lot in the last four years,” Donovan said. “I’m so glad it culminated this way. When you try to do things the right way, it’s good to get rewarded.”
The dramatic goal occurred after the Americans attacked offensively for the entirety of the match, keeping the Algerian keeper, Rais M’Bohli, busy with 18 shots, and five shots directly on goal.
“These guys never give up, and they showed that again today,” USA coach Bob Bradley said. “I was worried because we could have gone away empty-handed, but my players decided otherwise and never stopped believing. We’re proud to finish first in the group on five points, and we’re already prepared to go further.”
Algeria was content to defend and catch the United States by surprise on the counterattack, as they put up 17 of their own shots.
However, the United States controlled possession for a majority of the game and found itself with plenty of offensive chances.
Prior to the game, the United States knew its best chance to move on to the knockout stages of the World Cup was to beat Algeria in its final match of the group stage.
But it seemed as if the soccer gods had it in for the stars and stripes, as they had two chances go off the post and numerous chances that flew over or went wide of the net or were saved by M’Bohli.
In just the sixth minute, it seemed as if the Americans would start down one score early, when Algerian forward Rafik Djebbour ran onto a long ball from the defense and hammered a shot that came right back off the crossbar.
But from then on, it was the Americans who had the offensive chances.
In the 20th minute, Clint Dempsey scored a goal from a cross into an open net, but he was ruled offsides by the assistant referee. Replays later showed he was onside.
The poor luck continued when a tough toe-poke shot by Dempsey was saved by M’Bohli in the 35th minute, and just one minute later Jozy Altidore missed a wide-open net.
The offensive mishaps by the United States didn’t stop there, as several players missed open net chances. In the 57th minute Dempsey hit the post and missed hitting the rebound into a half-open net. Then, Edson Buddle missed a header.
As the game crept toward the 80-minute mark, the team seemed to go into desperation mode, and both sides began to exert more energy after every ball and every opportunity.
Team USA seemed to get the perfect chance in the 80th minute, when it was granted a free kick close to the goal. However, the chance was wasted, as Michael Bradley drilled the ball right at the keeper.
Shot after shot for the USA squad seemed to just barely miss, and eventually it seemed as if it had used up all of its offensive opportunities as the clock winded into the allotted extra four minutes.
Tempers also flared as the time waned, and with what has become custom in this World Cup, several cards were handed out. The United States finished the game with two yellow cards, bringing their total to six over three games.
Algeria finished with four yellows, and one red card in the final few minutes of the game. However, the penalties would not stop the USA squad from attempting to put away the Algerians.
With the clock ticking into the final three minutes, the USA squad turned it around and took advantage of a four-on-two counterattack situation.
Donovan played a ball to Altidore, who passed the ball across the box towards Dempsey. Keeper M’Bohli was able to get at least a hand on it, but Donovan was quicker, as he followed the play and tapped in the winner.
Donovan, arguably the face of the U.S. Men’s National Team, fittingly hit in the winning goal. Donovan now has four career World Cup goals and is the third USA player to score in multiple World Cups (current player Dempsey and former player Brian McBride are the others).
Donovan has solidified himself as a legend within the U.S. squad, as he leads many of the offensive all-time categories.
However, Donovan was not completely satisfied with having to wait so long to score.
“Of course, we should have and could have scored earlier, which would have spared us that dramatic ending,” Donovan said.
“In the end, though, it’s a good thing that it happened that way, so quickly. I didn’t even have time to think what I was going to do. Being in the right place and putting the ball in the net just came naturally.”