U.S. vs. Ghana FIFA World Cup 2010: A Real Choking Experience

TJ BuzzeoCorrespondent IJune 27, 2010

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 26: Jozy Altidore (L) of the United States sits dejected with Landon Donovan after the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen match between USA and Ghana at Royal Bafokeng Stadium on June 26, 2010 in Rustenburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

At about 4:40 p.m. on Saturday afternoon I ran into the bathroom gagging and expecting to re-experience my lunch, but not the way I had wanted. Crouching over the toilet I felt like I was being choked. 

My thought was that the collar of my shirt shrunk in the wash, so I took it off. Still feeling choked, I figured I went through a similar natural change Barry Bonds did where my neck out grew my Phiten Titanium necklace. Boom that was gone. Still, I felt like I was choking.

I stayed over my toilet trying to force myself to throw up to stop the choking sensation I was experiencing. During this time, the only thing I could hear was the broadcaster from the World Cup game between the U.S. and Ghana say things like, “The U.S. has to hope it has one more miracle left,” or “Can the Americans come back again?”

That is when I realized, that even if the Boston Strangler had his hands around my neck, it would not compare to anything the U.S. Soccer team was feeling as the final twenty minutes of their World Cup run ticked away.

Not to take anything away from Ghana or the other teams that the U.S. played, but they could have made a run at the title, at least conceivably to the semi-finals. A combination of missed opportunities and early miscues caused this team to struggle a lot more than it should have. Of the five goals given up by Tim Howard and the rest of the American defense, four of them came in the first half and three within the first 12 minutes of play. 

This game is too physically and emotionally draining to have to keep coming back time and time again. The American’s had to and did in three of their four matches. The one time they did not comeback was of course against Algeria when they went into stoppage play tied at one, before Landon Donavon connected 91 minutes into play.

Who is to blame for my upset stomach? There are a few candidates.

Howard, the U.S. goalie is an obvious choice. His job is to stop the ball from going into the net. If he did that his team would not have had to come back as often. Clearly with the size of the nets, not everything could be blamed on him.

Head Coach Bob Bradley is another contender. He should have to make a heck of an argument if he wants to keep his job with the U.S. National Team. Where was the team’s focus and concentration early on? I am sure Bradley did everything he could to get them to play the first half like they do in the second. However, if it does not work, something has to change. 

A third choice could be ESPN and ABC for showing all of the games on television, radio, and the Internet. How could I not follow it? I think I would have had to follow or stop watching sports from mid-June to mid-July. We know could never happen. 

Looking to the past two World Cups and this one, I have noticed there is an obvious pattern.

I start out the “Ignorant American” wanting to “put a boot in you’re a$$ because it’s the American way,” to quote Toby Keith. Then once the American’s are knocked out, I do what any Italian-American would do. No, not “G-T-L.” I start rooting for the “old country” as if I came over on a ship in the 1920’s and had to go through Ellis Island. But the Italians have a slew of problems of their own that I am trying to forget about. I mean, put simply, they played like the French. 

No. I think I have chosen a different person to blame for my 20-30 minutes hugging a toilet bowl yesterday. I will give you a few hints.

He has now played in three World Cups. He wears number 10 for Team U.S.A. He is the face of U.S. Soccer. I am talking about it Landon Donovan.

I know what you are thinking. How could it be arguably the best player on the team who scored three of the teams five goals? But it is. 

Before 2006, I had to hear how Donovan was going to lead this team out of mediocrity and improve upon the quarterfinal appearance it made in 2002. What happened in 2006? He could not get out of group play. Team U.S.A. went 0-1-2 with bad losses to Czech Republic and Ghana.

In the Confederations Cup a year ago, no one had any hope that the team would do anything. The Americans were lucky to get out of group play with improbable advancement to the finals defeating Egypt and Spain by a combine score of 5-0 before losing 3-2 to Brazil in the finals.

Since then, people have been excited for the World Cup, knowing that the U.S. could leave their mark on the World and Donovan was going to lead the way. After getting a lucky draw against England, the team comes back to tie Slovenia after going down 0-2. It was Donovan who got the scoring started. 

The U.S. had hope that it’s soccer team could make a run. All they needed was to beat Algeria, the lowest ranked team in the bracket. Should be no problem. Well, should have been. It took the U.S. 91 minutes to score and win. Who was it that scored? Donovan.  It was also Donovan that scored to tie the final game against Ghana.

Donovan was the guy we were supposed to put all our hope on. We did. He answered the call.

Wouldn’t it have been easier on us had he not scored against Slovenia and we lost the game? Or how about muffing the rebound chance against Algeria? Shanking the penalty kick against Ghana? 

Then the U.S. would have lost earlier in the tournament or earlier in the day. Less drama would have been involved. My nerves would have rested easier. I'd remember why I don’t watch soccer year round and why it will never take off in the United States.

But of course Donovan had to give myself, and others, hope that this team could make a run. Maybe get a few breaks and make history. They had to drag it out, come back and play with our emotions for what, another loss to Ghana? 

I would keep going, but just thinking about how the U.S. played is making my stomach churn.