COS contributor Aaron Chewning looks back on the United State’s gut-wrenching World Cup, boy band members, and the American Revolution.
We opened the campaign against our favorite frienemies, the Brits. Sure our countries are playmates when it comes to politics and wars, but our World Cup (not to mention that whole littttle disagreement back in the 1700s) history is spiky. Sloppy defending let Stevie G slide one past Tim Howard in the opening minutes. We were then running uphill trying to find the equalizer. Clint Dempsey, who scored his share of circus goals from distance this season for Fulham, decided to try his luck after a few unintentional stopovers. West Ham’s Robert Green then chose to make it up to us Americans for that whole Benedict Arnold thing by fumbling the ball into his own net. Was it pretty? No. Was the American Revolution pretty? No. But both got the job done. 1 point? Check please.
Our next test was Slovenia. Just as we were beginning to thrive on the role of underdog, baby Slovenia pranced into our group and asked us to partake in a friendly wittle game of football. Baby Slovenia then decided to hit puberty and morph in to a full on rebellious teenager, scoring two goals in the first half. Being the come-from-behind junkies that we are, we came out in the second half a new team. That balding dreamboat Landon Donovan then took the game in to his own hands by scoring a gorgeous goal from a tight angle. We pushed and pushed, until eventually Michael Bradley stole a second in the 82nd minute. EXCITING.
Two draws from two games left us with a must win game against Algeria if we wanted to progress from our group. A loss meant we were out of the cup and a draw meant… well it was one of those situations where goal differential, England’s result, lottery numbers, and star alignments needed to work together in perfect harmony for us to progress. Forget the draw though; we just needed all three points.
The Algerians were quite the intimidating opponents. At first, it seemed that the large African nation had fielded a troop of Bruno impersonators to play mind games with the U.S. squad. Once the American’s shook off the initial shock of having to face 11 blonde-tipped boy band members, they found themselves in a tight match up. The game was a nervy stalemate with both teams having their fair share of solid chances. We didn’t concede early, which was a fantastic change from our previous two games and a huge relief for my beaten heart. Tim Howard released Landon Donovan down the wide-open right flank with a superb throw in the 91st minute. The break eventually saw Clint Dempsey’s close range effort stopped by the keeper only to be put away by the onrushing Donovan. That sent us top of the group (for the first time in United States history), clear of the underachieving Red Coats.
I was in a packed pub in Orlando, FL, USA for that game. When Donovan scored, the place erupted in cheers and screams and hugs and crying. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The noise never let up for a solid ten minutes. As I watched the post game interviews, I found myself with an arm around a big sweaty stranger and my drink spilled across the table. It didn’t matter. We were proud. We then went on to lead the pub in a rendition of this fantastically horrible gem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-9_fDEsv-Q
Watch this next video to get an idea of America’s reaction to Donovan’s last minute winner (it gives me chills every time): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbn3rOPmR9w&feature=youtube
Our incredibly exciting run in the 2010 World Cup came to an end at the hands of the last remaining African nation, Ghana. The game needed extra time to decide a winner, with Ghana scoring in the 93rd minute to kill us off. I might or might not have cried a little on the way out of the pub.
The end was bitter but it couldn’t overshadow all the great moments that made up the United State’s journey in South Africa. We’re all incredibly proud of our boys and the way they never gave up. I’ve seen passion for the game spread like wildfire across the nation over the past few weeks. Only time will tell whether that passion will endure or fade now that the United State’s journey is over. Either way, U.S. soccer is on the way up. It might take two or three more World Cup’s before we’re real contenders, but we can wait. It’ll be worth it. I’ll leave you with a real heart grenade of a tweet from the United States all time leading scorer, the balding dreamboat himself, LanDo:
“I’m really proud of our team, really proud of our fans, and really proud of our country. Thank you for all the support we’ve felt over the last 3 weeks, what an incredible ride. Thanks especially to all those that travelled so far to watch us play. Goodnight and thank you.” – Landon Donovan