June 23, 2010
Loftus Versfeld Stadium
Pretoria, South Africa
"Landon Donovan was there as a young kid in '02, and wasn't ready. He admits he wasn't ready for that role in 2006. He felt like he was ready coming to South Africa. And the belief he talked about isn't artificial, it's not manufactured, it comes from experience. The United States scored nine goals in qualifying from the 86th minute on. No other team in the World Cup had half that many." -Chris FowlerESPN:
Over and over, everything seemed to go against them.
A referee took away a win last week, and a linesman disallowed another goal Wednesday. This time it was Dempsey scoring from close range in the 20th minute on what appeared to be a valid goal that was nullified for offside.
The rest of the first half (and the game) was more of the same, with the U.S. compiling near-miss after near-miss in front of a partisan crowd cheering their every move.
With the other Group C match seeing England defeat Slovenia 1-0, the Americans needed a winning goal or they would have been eliminated from the World Cup.
Now there was just 3½ minutes left in their World Cup, just that much remaining until all the doubts about American soccer would rise again.
But then, in one of the most stunning turnarounds in World Cup history, Landon Donovan scored on a lightning fast counterattack 45 seconds into 4 minutes of injury time.
With the most amazing late-game moment in American soccer, the United States beat Algeria 1-0 and reached the World Cup's second round.
USA's all-time leading scorer joyously ran to the corner flag, sliding headfirst in a belly flop, and his teammates ran down the touchline to mob him.
He was in tears and even 30 minutes later his eyes watered and voice cracked as he talked about the goal. The field long empty, American fans remained in the stands, still cheering, waving the Stars and Stripes and blowing vuvuzelas.
"I've been through a lot in the last four years," Donovan said with tears in his eyes. "I'm so glad it culminated this way. When you try to do things the right way, it's good to get rewarded."
Donovan's goal was the 44th of his international career. It was also the fourth World Cup goal of his illustrious career, tying him with Bert Patenaude on the USA's all-time list. The match was also Donovan's 11th all-time World Cup appearance, tying him for the U.S. record with Cobi Jones and Earnie Stewart. Donovan has started 11 consecutive World Cup games for the United States dating back to 2002. He also becomes the only U.S. player to score multiple goals in two different World Cups.
As a 20-year-old in 2002, Donovan scored two goals and became a star. But expectations became crushing in 2006, when he went scoreless and the U.S. was eliminated in the first round.
"We all believed we were going to win this game," Jozy Altidore said. "No other result would have worked for us."
The U.S. had its best attacking game of this tournament, with 23 touches in the opponent's box, a 69.7 percent passing accuracy in the opponent's half and 10 shots on target. The Yanks' previous tournament highs were 15 touches in the box, a 60.1 percent passing accuracy in the opponent's half and six shots on goal, all against Slovenia.
After the match, former President Bill Clinton, who is the honorary chairman of the U.S. Bid Committee for the 2018/2022 World Cups, came to the locker room to personally congratulate the team on the historic victory.
President Barack Obama called the U.S. World Cup soccer team Thursday to congratulate it on advancing to the next round of the World Cup.
The United States won its first World Cup match in eight years and finished atop its first-round group for the first time since the original World Cup in 1930. With a quick turnaround, the Americans play Ghana on Saturday night (2:30 p.m. ET, ABC) in Rustenburg for a spot in the quarterfinals. Ghana won the final match of the opening round against the Americans to knock them out of the tournament in Germany four years ago.
"We're not done yet," Donovan said. "We believe, man. We're alive, baby."
Team USA on Twitter
Herculez Gomez: "cant even begin to express how proud I am to be on this team... USA all the way."
DaMarcus Beasley: "BIG win for us!!! Sooo proud of all 23 players! Thanks for all support from everyone, ALL fans! LOVE ya'll."
Charlie Davies: "YAAAAAAA! We did it! So proud of the boys! We have won the group #worldcup What's happening?. Amazing accomplishment & we still have more to achieve. #USA United States"
Jozy Altidore: "WOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!"