In his final installment highlighting US Soccer’s centennial year, Clemente Lisi closes with what could be the biggest accomplishment in the National Team program’s history – the 2010 World Cup and Landon Donovan’s historic goal against Algeria.
By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Dec 23, 2013) US Soccer Players – Landon Donovan has contributed more to the success of the USMNT than perhaps any other player in US Soccer’s 100-year history. He holds the records for goals and assists. He is poised to play in his fourth World Cup this summer. Records aside, Donovan may have also scored what is the biggest goal in USMNT history at a World Cup or any other soccer tournament.
The goal came in the dying minutes of the USMNT’s decisive first round game against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Americans desperately needed a win to advance out of the group stage. With the score tied 0-0 entering the 91st minute, the USA embarked on a play that became a regular highlight on US television and replayed countless times.
Nearly four years later, the goal remains an Internet phenomenon. For the first time in American soccer history, one goal meant so much to a nation continuing to grow its love for the game. It seemed, for a moment anyway, that the United States was no different than Brazil, Argentina, Italy or countless other countries where soccer is a religion. It was a collective moment where a nation could celebrate the success of its soccer team.
Donovan’s strike may have surpassed Paul Caligiuri’s epic goal in 1989 against Trinidad & Tobago that qualified the Americans for a World Cup for the first time in 40 years. At the time, soccer was not what it is today in this country. There was no pro soccer league. The National Team was seldom on TV. Caligiuri’s goal created no collective sigh of relief. There was no mass celebration in homes or bars across the United States. It was before the digital age where iPhones and YouTube became repositories for every human emotion and experience – no matter how big or small.
Don’t get me wrong. There would be no Donovan goal without Caligiuri – but what the USA accomplished in 2010 was nothing short of exceptional.
The moment itself came on a fast break that saw the Americans, in full desperation mode, lunge forward in search of a goal. After Tim Howard made a save on his line, he tossed the ball forward to Donovan in the midfield. Donovan, going at full speed, found Jozy Altidore in the penalty box. Altidore then passed the ball over to Clint Dempsey, who attempted a shot. That’s when Algerian goalkeeper Raid M’Bohli made a save, but the ball bounced off him and into the path of Donovan.
This is the moment no one on that will forget. Whether you were one of the 36,000 in attendance that night on June 23 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria or watching on television at home or in a bar in this country, it is a moment – a goal – that will live on in your memory forever. It’s the moment when the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder ran at the ball in full speed, slotting it into the net with a powerful and precise right-footed shot. The goal set off celebrations on the field, in the stands and in millions of American homes and bars.
“My favorite memory from that goal was turning the corner and looking up and seeing first Stuart Holden’s face running toward the corner flag, followed by like 30 people – including staff and coaches and everyone – and just kind of meeting at the corner flag to celebrate,” Donovan told me in December 2010. “That was a really cool moment.”
Donovan’s teammates also recalled the celebration with fondness.
“I remember running towards Landon and all of a sudden there were a pile of players on top of me. It was a great moment,” said Holden. “It really was unbelievable.”
“I didn’t run towards him because I had no energy left,” added goalkeeper Tim Howard. “I was just exhausted. All I could do was hunch down on the ground at that moment. It was a relief.”
It also pushed the USA to the top of Group C, ahead of favorites England, moving on to the Round of 16. It was the first time since 1930 that the Americans had won its group. The goal was also Donovan’s fourth World Cup goal of his career, tying him with Bert Patenaude on the USA’s all-time list. The game also marked Donovan’s 11th World Cup appearance, tying him for the National Team record alongside Cobi Jones and Earnie Stewart. That day, Donovan also became the only US player to score multiple goals in two different World Cups.
Though the United States exited the 2010 tournament in the next round, Donovan’s goal remains one for the ages. Don’t believe me? Just check YouTube.
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