Facing the prospect of a draw with Algeria and thus the abyss that would be an early exit from the World Cup, Landon Donovan managed to put a Clint Dempsey rebound into the Algerian net and propel Team USA into the Round of 16 as the winners of Group C to boot.
I could talk about the numerous chances America’s Team had throughout the match: Dempsey bouncing a shot off the post, Hercules Gomez not blasting it past the Algerian keeper, Jozy’s numerous flubs.
I could even expound on how an elderly and visually-impaired D-Wade could have cost El Equipo de Todos (Our Team, that’s Univision’s nickname for Team USA) everything but…
This moment belongs to one of the greatest sporting moments I have witnessed, not just in the World Cup but throughout all sport. Yes there was Vince Young’s unworldly performance against USC, Gibby’s improbable blast off Eck back in ’88, the Houston Rockets going back-to-back etc.
I have loved fútbol (soccer to some of you, football to others) all of my life, it is the sport I learned before I learned to walk. Being a native of México had a lot to do with this. Throughout the years, baseball, basketball and college football have take a large portion of the market share, but every 4 years, fútbol is king.
As has been extensively catalogued on these pages, I “live and die” with Mexico’s National Team (El Tri) from the time World Cup qualifers start to such a time we find ourselves in now, the World Cup. Naturally, during qualifiers I root against the United States when they play my beloved Tri, but every other time I’m right there with Team USA.
Watching the USA-Algeria match today, my heart grew heavier with each passing minute as Team USA failed time and time again to get the ball past a stupidly grinning Algerian keeper. As stoppage time came and Algeria headed a dangerous ball towards U.S. keeper Tim Howard’s goal, the flickering flame of hope waned…
Howard, arguably the U.S. best player, then sensed an opportunity and hurled the ball mightily towards a streaking Landon Donovan. I sensed something special was going to happen because this is exactly how he looked last year when he scored on a counterattack against Brazil in the Confederations Cup final.
They got down to the box, the ball ended up at the feet of Clint Dempsey and the hands of the Algerian keeper, who made a mighty save. The ball bounced right out off his hands and into the annals of history in the form of Landon Donovan’s right foot.
Elation… Relief and Joy.
I may or may not have gotten a little-teary eyed at what I had just witnessed. I can say with certainty that this moment surpassed anything I’ve felt watching México at this World Cup. For me to say that…
What a country this is, where an Argentine (Andres Cantor) is calling the game on Spanish Radio and goes berserk calling Donovan’s goal. So much so that he is unable to belt out his trademark “GOOOOLLLL!!!” because of the emotion of the moment.
What a country, where a Mexican fútbol/soccer/football chant, “Si se puede!” (“Yes We Can”) is used to fuel an historical election, only to come full circle by being plastered on posterboard in support of Team USA (Photo by Phil Cole Getty Images)
I don’t know what this victory means for the future prospects of soccer in this country, and to be honest I don’t particularly care.
Whether or not the sport ever gives baseball, basketball or American football a run for their money here in these United States is irrelevant.
Fútbol is king, and when it comes to watching your homeland (adopted or otherwise) at the World Cup, there is nothing like it.
Here’s a video of Landon’s historic goal.