World Cup 2010: Donovan seals the deal

So here's Alexi Lalas circa 1993, now a clean-cut talking head on ESPN. He had nothing to do with the win, but I've been looking for an excuse to feature one of my few soccer cards.

I think everyone can be thankful that Landon Donovan prevented another week (or three) of griping about officials.

Donovan, as you surely know by now, put home the game winner in the 92nd minute today against Algeria, propelling the US into the Round of 16 as the Group C winner, 1-0. And if he hadn’t, Clint Dempsey’s goal in the 21st, disallowed on a bogus offside call, would’ve been the second game-winner revoked from the US.

Alas, we don’t have to worry about that. Algeria barely put on an offensive show, and the US kept creating chance after chance, leading to dinged posts and missed marks. The most egregious error on the American side was Jozy Altidore trying to blast the ball to Australia in front of an open net in the first half, when a simple redirection would’ve produced a goal (and a lead).

But in extra time, Dempsey brought the ball in, crashed into Algerian keeper Rais M Bolhi, and Donovan put in the rebound. Also, of course, the US avoided a complete disaster in the final two minutes by just being smart.

Credit to head coach Bob Bradley for being aggressive, subbing in striker Edson Buddle for midfielder Maurice Edu, thus playing three strikers up top with Dempsey and Donovan playing forward and son Michael Bradley consistently joining the attack. A tie would’ve been as good as a loss, so Bradley went for it, and the result was a wide-open game, with the ball crossing the pitch end-to-end, over and over. It was fantastic to watch.

Also of note was the behavior of referee Frank De Bleeckere, who seemed hell-bent on making sure that the US had every opportunity to put another one home, lest another officiating mistake prevent them from moving on. Fouls went against Algeria again and again. Four yellow cards were given to the Africans (including two to defender Anter Yahia, ending his day), versus two for the US (Altidore and Damarcus Beasley). At one point, when Algeria was set to try a late corner kick, another foul was called, and the corner revoked. If the US hadn’t scored again, it wouldn’t have been his fault.

But they did, and the US has a signature moment for the nation’s soccer history, a fantastic goal that propelled them into the next phase of a wide open World Cup. Let’s see where they go next.


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