I was three minutes away from typing that the game of soccer is just too big for the United States. For 90 minutes, the Americans missed golden scoring chance after golden scoring chance to be knotted with Algeria 0-0 in the final match of group play Wednesday morning. With England leading 1-0, the US was just three minutes away from going home in what would have been yet another disastrous finish. But then came a play that will never be forgotten.
Goaltender Tim Howard made a save on a header by Algeria and tossed the ball long to Landon Donovan. He got the ball to Jozy Altidore. The young striker then worked his way into the box and crossed to Clint Dempsey. But the Algerian goaltender, Rais Bolihi, who had come up big all day, stopped the shot cold. There was a rebound, however, and it came out to the six-yard box. Landon Donovan, the American star who many have questioned his true talent, rushed to the ball and shot it into the open net to give the United States a 1-0 shocking victory in South Africa.
From sheer agony to pure ecstasy, the United States is not only through to the Round of 16, but wins the group for the first time since 1930. There is more soccer to be played for the Americans, who again had to overcome a horrible referee call, an offsides that disallowed a US goal. But this time around, that would have been no excuse. The US missed at least two open nets as it looked like the game was sure to be headed for a scoreless draw.
Algeria, which needed a big victory as well to have any chance of advancing, was inexplicably playing for the draw. If I didn't know any better I would say they were in, with FIFA and the refs, on the plot to knock out the United States. Nobody outside of this country wants the US to win the World Cup, let alone advance to Round 16. But good luck calling off that final Donovan goal.
Now, the United States could have the upper hand in advancing to the Elite Eight, as Ghana is a possible opponent for the Americans next Saturday afternoon. But Germany, Australia and Serbia could all get to that spot as well. The US will play the second place team in Group D, which will be determined today starting at 2:30 p.m.
The United States is starting to believe, and after that wonder goal by Donovan, you have to believe they have turned the page on the past and could very well make a run in this World Cup. The stars have aligned, we'll see how far the United States can take this now.