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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA! USA! USA! Late Donovan goal saves World Cup dreams

Posted by on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 12:06 PM

Landon Donovan and teammates Edson Buddle (left) and Benny Feilhaber after the game-winner in stoppage time.
  • Andy Mead/ YCJ
  • Landon Donovan and teammates Edson Buddle (left) and Benny Feilhaber after the game-winner in stoppage time.
RICHMOND, VA—It was shaping up to be the Year We Got Robbed, the moment the American soccer-interested public lost faith in the game's underlying propensity to justice and, worse yet, the moment folks stopped reading World Cup blog postings.

Instead, a clutch goal capping a well-worked team move in injury team has sent the U.S. through to the second round, and sent throngs of jubilant soccer fans into ecstasy around the country. It was fitting that the two best American players were at the center of the move—Clint Dempsey, whose first effort was saved, and Landon Donovan, who trailed the play and made the rebound his own, coolly tucking the ball into the net in composed but emphatic fashion.

The U.S. certainly benefited from the fact this was no ordinary game. Algeria had a slim hope of advancing as well, and despite their goal being under siege most of the game, continued to push forward late on rather than accept a draw. Fair play to them. Their efforts left them exposed to the counterattack, which the U.S. finally took advantage of.

The first-half talking point was Dempsey's disallowed goal. It's a lucky thing that this was only a first-half talking point, as it would have been easy to imagine much of the American public becoming disillusioned with the sport if the U.S. team had exited due to two bad calls.

Instead, this is just about the greatest moment in American soccer history. The U.S. qualified, they won the group (hopefully meaning they dodge Germany in the next round), and they surely have captured the imagination of the sporting public in a way that even exceeds the exploits of the 2002 team.

No one knows how far this American team is capable of going—though it's fair to say that a loss to Ghana or Serbia in the round of 16 would be regarded as a disappointment. But for now, the fun continues.

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