For the United States it's been a roller coaster ride through 2010, set up by the events of the last four years. But this year was the culmination of something great.
From the Home Depot center in Los Angeles in January, to Holland in March, to, obviously, South Africa in the summer and closing up shop back in South Africa in November, it has been a 2010 that US Soccer fans will never forget.
In the second game the United States would play against a future World Cup participant (also playing Honduras in January), Bob Bradley would get an in depth look at what his future roster would shape up to be including most of his starters but also experimenting with players like Jose Torres in the midfield.
After ugly play and a De Jong take down of Stuart Holden that left his World Cup in doubt, the Yanks trailed by two. But Bocanegra would give us an early taste of the no quit attitude that eventually dubbed us the cardiac kids.
This goal is significant since the US nearly scored an equalizer minutes later on an Altidore strike outside of the box that was barely saved.
The United States won the Nelson Mandela cup with an eye towards the future. After having his contract renewed for the 2014 cycle it was time for Bob Bradley to give the young guys a chance, and he did so, taking a roster back to South Africa that made you have to Google half of these guys.
But it was the youngest player ever to score for the US that made the difference, also giving a testament to both the US Soccer development acadamy as well as Major League Soccer's development of players when New York Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo made a magnificent finish in the box to seal the first US victory since beating Algeria in the World cup.
After losing to CONCACAF rival Honduras a month earlier the US needed to get back on track with World Cup preparations. It looked to be the same old same old when El Salvador, just as they had done the year prior, struck first.
But a Brian Ching equalizer in the second half set the stage for an unsung Yank hero to give US fans just their first taste of stoppage time magic. After stealing the ball, Kljestan passed off to Ching who sent it right back as Sasha put in the perfect finish to give the Yanks an exhilarating win.
This was the first bit of excitement that US fans were able to experience since the World Cup (drowning out the disaster against Brazil in New Jersey a few months prior) when the US took on Poland in Chicago.
It was also the highly anticipated debut of Jermaine Jones, who picked to get capped by the U.S. Senior national team instead of waiting for his opportunity with Germany. Jones, born in Germany to American parents, had already been playing in the Bundesliga and might have been available in the World Cup if not for a leg injury.
In his first taste of action with the Yanks however he sent a beautiful mid line pass over the top to an onsides Altidore, which was every bit as impressive as the finish.
Vintage Clint Dempsey. For the majority of this match he looked terrible and non existent. But just when you need the midfielder's offensive prowess the most, there he is.
Perhaps prophetic considering the next goal that 'Duece was going to score wearing the US crest, but at the very least sent the Americans to South Africa on a winning note and in all too familiar fashion, coming back from an early goal deficit.
At this point in the World Cup, it had been almost customary. The United States was prohibited to score until their backs were placed squarely against the wall. And, this round of 16 matchup against an all too familiar Ghana squad was no different.
After being placed in an early deficit after a Ricardo Clark midfield turnover turned into an impressive Ghana score in just the fourth minute. The Yanks equalized it when Dempsey was taken down in the box in the 61st minute, only for Donovan to score his third goal of the tournament and eventually force extra time.
It was just what the US needed, just when the US needed it. After only one half it might have seemed like the entire World Cup was over the United States. Were they really losing 2-0 to Slovenia? Can you even locate Slovenia on a map?
They were fighting for their lives, but you can't get two goals until you got the first one. Enter Landon Donovan. His first goal of the tournament was a dramatic one, taking the ball over the top as his defender fell down. He took advantage of it taking it into the box and and right at the goal keeper hitting the top of the net. It was only two minutes into the second half. Now all the Yanks needed was an equalizer.
The Cardiac kids were back in business.
A moment US fans are sure never to forget. "And Rob Green has let it in! What a horrible moment for Rob Green!"
US fans around the country heard on their televisions as the US scored their most unlikely goal of the tournament. Even Clint Dempsey thought that that shot had no chance to get in, but after trailing from just the fourth minute, the US needed any kind of spark, and Dempsey provided it.
The U.S. wouldn't really put forth any other substantive attacks the rest of the match, while Tim Howard, cracked ribs and all, survived an English barrage to help the Yanks get out of Rustenburg with a draw. But to the U.S. it was a win. As karma would have it, Dempsey would score a little more impressive goal back in EPL play against Rob Green. Another victory for the Yanks.
Throughout this match you could tell that something special was going to happen, after Donovan's goal that is. The cameras would zoom in on a pair of American fans dangling their flag over the railing from the front row, but also with a scarf above it that read "We are the Yanks".
As the announcers pointed out, the expressions on their faces were almost imploring the U.S. to score. And through it all, you could not help but feel that it wasn't an "if" scenario, but instead, a "when". You knew the Yanks were going to score. But when? How?
The coach's son knew. Michael Bradley gave the USA the goal that saved their World Cup before it even really started. A loss to Slovenia and would it have even mattered what happened against Algeria? Hindsight says no.
In a World Cup full of thrills and exhilaration, this ranks among the best.
But the USA wasn't out of the woods yet.
This goal wasn't just the biggest goal of US Soccer in 2010, it was quite possible the biggest goal in United States soccer history.
If Donovan had not scored in stoppage time, the United States would have been eliminated. And, let's face is, the United States is not the soccer nation that Brazil, England, Spain, Italy, etc. will be. Chances are we never will be.
But there is no question that this game, this sport, this passion, and this love for the beautiful game in our nation is growing. And this goal is proof. Most of the viewers that watched the World Cup are simply casual fans and probably won't come back to US Soccer until the next World Cup. But that's why what Landon Donovan did was so special.
This goal was more than just soccer, this goal was why we are proud to be Americans. It exemplified the American spirit.
Even when our backs are against the wall we will never give up, and neither did the 23 men in South Africa who represented us on the pitch. For one Wednesday morning our country was unified. Because of US Soccer.