Once upon a time… Landon Donovan and the United States were playing what could potentially be the last game of their 2010 World Cup campaign against Algeria. With England temporarily beating Slovenia 1-0, the U.S needed to beat Algeria because anything less than a win still allowed Slovenia to advance to the Round of 16. The entire country was temporarily immobile as they hoped to witness the decisive goal for the “red, white and blue”.
Group C of the 2010 World Cup was rated as one of the easiest of the tournament and the two “giants”, United States and England, were expected to qualify without breaking a sweat. However, after their opening tie (thanks to Robert Green’s hiccup) followed by yet another tie in the second game, both sides were desperate for a win in the final game.
On the other hand, Slovenia surrendered a 2-0 lead against the U.S and were lucky to walk away with a 2-2 tie after the U.S had a legitimate goal disallowed. Lastly, Algeria was still somehow someway, still breathing. A 2-0 victory for them would allow them get second place in the group. In the end, every team had everything to play for in the final game.
Both the England vs Slovenia and the United States vs Algeria game were being played simultaneously which made it more nerve wracking for the fans knowing that a goal from any team could completely change every team’s destiny. Jermaine Defoe put the english ahead 1-0 in the 22nd minute after a wonderful cross by James Milner. With that goal, England would be winning the group and Slovenia would be in second place.
The U.S were aware of England’s results and understood that failure to score a goal would result in their elimination from the tournament. As the game wore on, the players appeared more and more anxious. It was an overall evenly fought match. The U.S marvelous opportunities to score but simply were unable to score. Dempsey hit one off the post and Herculez Gomez missed a wide-open sitter. Unfortunately for them, shots on target don’t give you the three points.
The 90th minute came around and the scores remained the same. England would defeat Slovenia and momentarily, win the group. Fans all across the U.S watched in silence as their team was being eliminated out of the World Cup.
When suddenly in a counter-attack that initiated from Tim Howard’s hands, the country opened their eyes, grabbed their head and cheered “Go Up!!” as Landon Donovan carried the ball deep into Algeria’s own defensive third. With Algeria up looking for the game winner, the Donovan-led countertack was a clear 4v2 chance for the U.S. Donovan looked up and slipped Jozy Altidore wide who sent in a danger cross to the incoming Clint Dempsey whose shot was blocked by the algerian keeper. Just as the whole country let out an “ahhh..” i came Donovan himself out of nowhere coming in like bullet to put away the shot into an open net.
As Donovan slid headfirst to the corner flag, the entire United States bench and came running to him pile up on him. Not only was that the most important international goal Donovan had scored, it was also the most important goal in the most important game for most of the players.
With the victory, the U.S won the group and avoided Germany in the Round of 16. However, a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to Ghana was the final unexpected bow for Landon Donovan at a World Cup. With his return to the fields announced today, it’s only right we remember such an important goal. A night where Donovan’s legacy became as big as his forehead. I was not in the country for the 1999 Women’s World Cup, but from my time in the country, It was the first time I genuinely saw everyone, men and women of all ages, get wrapped up into a soccer game and scream a goal to top of their lungs. Thank you and welcome back, Landon.