The day Landon Donovan saved U.S. soccer

The game has been over for almost 12 hours now and I’m still pumped up about it. And if you knew how important today was for soccer in this country, you would be too.

Donovan’s goal is more than just an exciting goal at the end of a game. Way more. This year was the year for the United States. We had the right players and a great draw for our pool. There was no reason for us not to advance. For the sake of soccer in the United States, this was a must have.

For Donovan himself to get the goal, that was special too. He has arguably done more to advance the game in the States than any other American player before him, and this was huge for his place in world soccer, as well as the legacy he will leave behind.

But let’s think of this from the other way. What if a defender clears the ball and Donovan doesn’t score. The USA and Algeria play to a scoreless draw and we finish with three points in the group, behind both England and Slovenia.

For passionate soccer fans, their spirits are demoralized once again. It’s yet another year where our country watches the rest of the world, from the outside looking in. In most basic terms, losing is simply un-American. It’s not something we’re used to experiencing, and it’s certainly not a trait we want to become accustomed to.  But when it happens repeatedly… people don’t know what to believe.

For the casual fans, it drives them away from something we’ve been trying so long to promote, the idea of soccer becoming popular in America. Nobody likes a loser, especially one that breaks your heart. “We were supposed to do well this year,” they’d say. “But forget this team and their losing ways. Football… American football… now there’s a sport we’re can win at.”

Last, but certainly least, this would affect the soccer haters too. “See, what a stupid game. We can’t even beat countries that I’ve never heard of. Slovenia, who? Those foot fairies and worthless sport.” The worst part is, that criticism would be directed at passionate soccer fans, who have the purist motives of all. It’d be four more years of abuse and name calling, which can be enough to drive some people away from the beautiful game.

Years—perhaps even decades—of soccer clawing its way into mainstream America would have been ruined without Donovan’s strike. It’s one thing to be consistently bad (the Pirates still bring people out to the ballpark), but it’s the heartbreak that drives people away (say, the Mets, anyone?).  And this World Cup, one we should have had success in, would do just that. Had the U.S. not advanced, it would have been detrimental to soccer and soccer fans across the country.

It’s safe to say that what Donovan has built up over the years, he saved today with his already famous finish.

So the question has to be asked, is Donovan’s extra time goal the most famous goal in all of U.S. history? I certainly don’t know all there is to know about U.S. soccer, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s that long of a list. Off the top of my head, other famous goals might be:

  • USA over England, 1-0, in 1950. Such an upset that English papers thought it had to be a misprint and ran scores of 10-1, England
  • USA over Mexico, 2-0, in the round of 16, 2002. Always good to beat a geographical rival, and Mexico is best competition in North America
  • USA over Spain in the Confederations Cup, 2009. Not the World Cup, but a huge win for the States over a world-wide superpower

Of course, I’m sure I’m missing some. If you have one I forgot, comment below.

Other thoughts on the game:

Donovan saved Clint Dempsey’s butt. Dempsey did not play well and missed some open looks. The dives were on the soft side too. I know it’s Clint, but I was considering subbing him for Edson Buddle early in the second half.

Did the USA get the ref job again? Didn’t look offside to me… and if it was that’s an awful ballsy call from the side ref. But come on, Jozy Altidore’s yellow card was the softest call I’ve ever seen. The guy took two steps and then fell.

Michael Bradley had another solid game, but my new man crush has to be for his dad, Bob Bradley. I love the guy. He’s not sitting there all arrogant like Slovenia’s coach Matjaz Kek, and he gets visibly excited an angry with the rest of us. He has both the feistiness of Ozzie Guillen and the cool, collectedness of Joe Torre all in one. The shot of him after the goal called back today was priceless… and who doesn’t love when coaches get mad.

But on the other side of the spectrum, I can’t stand Algeria’s Hassan Yebda. I think they used his picture on UrbanDictionary next to “that guy.” I think the hair alone does it for me.

I do feel bad for Slovenia, not advancing after leading for so long, but if we would have missed advancing because of Edu’s called back goal (I’m thinking there’s a problem if I have to specify which one) I would have been seriously pissed at their country. We should have fought them.  I mean if we were in a war, we could fight their entire country 2-on-1 with the state of Kentucky…

And finally… wow! Look what happens when we have a clean sheet. Tim Howard finally had a shutout, and the team finally won a game. Coincidence? I think not.

Soccer fans, we’ve waited a long time for this day. I haven’t been this proud of U.S. Soccer since we were up 2-0 on Brazil last year, but this is way better than that. Before you go to bed tonight, I want to you smile—your team is undefeated.

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5 thoughts on “The day Landon Donovan saved U.S. soccer

  1. I love this. Beautifully written! That goal today was positively narcotic. I felt like I was on a ecstasy without a depressing crash, with the biggest smile on my face! Today made my year!

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