Landon Donovan’s goal in the 91st minute vs. Algeria is now one of the biggest moments in U.S. sports history.
Just when it looked like the Americans would head home early from South Africa, Donovan put home a rebound in the 91st minute to save his nation, and push them into the round of 16.
Sports does not get better than this. As a nation watched in panic, the U.S. looked like a team that just would not find the net. Chance after chance after chance, and not one could go through.
Algeria hit the crossbar early on, but the story of the match was the inability of the Americans to score.
It started early in the match, when Clint Dempsey appeared to be on-sides for a disallowed goal in a deja vu situation from the Slovenia match. From that moment on, it seemed as if the ball just did not want to go into the net for the Yanks.
Even worse, England was up on Slovenia 1-0, and, if results had held, the U.S. would have been left out of the knockout stage of the World Cup, with Slovenia and England advancing.
If you’ve watched ESPN in the last two weeks, you’ve seen commercials claiming that all it takes to change everything is one second. That one second came in the 91st minute.
After a missed attack by Algeria, Tim Howard threw the ball up and the U.S. began a counterattack. They had numbers, but, if the preceding 90 minutes of the game were any indicator, the chance would simply end up stunningly out of the back of the net.
Not this time.
Jozy Altidore put a shot on net that the Algerian keeper could not handle. A juicy rebound sat for Landon Donovan.
In a breathless situation, Donovan sprinted to the ball and calmly put it in the back of the net. It might have seemed easy, but the U.S. had missed at least three open nets up to that point. So, from a fan’s perspective, it was not an automatic goal.
And so, Landon Donovan, who wears the number 10, a number reserved for the best, became a national hero. Facebook and Twitter exploded as Donovan clinched a spot in the round of 16 for the U.S., who, for the first time since the first World Cup in 1930, have won their group.
In 2002, Donovan had two goals, but in 2006, he had zero. He had said it was because he was not ready for the role of superstar. Well, at age 28, it seems he is ready and, in the last two games, has proved it.
The number 10 has been worn by soccer’s all-time greats: Pele, Maradona, Zidane, Zico, Hugo; and is worn by today’s best: Drogba, Rooney, Kaka, Messi, Podolski. Donovan hasn’t reached that level of play yet, and may never. But, if he performs the same magic in the round of 16 that he has in the last two group stage matches, he will certainly be to his nation what the preceding players are to their respective countries.
“World Cup Match Results: United States vs Algeria – FIFA World Cup 2010”, ESPN
“FIFA Player Statistics: Landon DONOVAN”, FIFA