All hail Donovan, a talisman if ever there were one. He had a bright few minutes to open the second half before drifting off into irrelevance as Altidore and Dempsey took center stage. But then there he was, right place, right time, to (conservatively) deliver the most thrilling victory in US soccer history and (more optimistically) transform the destiny of his sport in his home country.
It didn’t look too good for a while there. The frustration of another diallowed goal, this time with a poor offside call on Clint Dempsey in the first half, along with chances blasted over — and sometimes into — the bar threatened to sink the team. And the victors should tip their cap the the goalkeeping of Algeria keeper Mbohli, who kept several other strikes from reaching the back of the net with outstanding instincts and confidence.
One meme I’d like to dispell that started making its rounds in the waning minutes was that Algeria was playing for the tie all game. That is false — they had 16 shots in the first hour or so of play, and they pressed and countered with more bodies against the US than they did against England. Maybe they’re a mess when it comes to finishing, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying. Granted, they rely on those counter-strikes instead of trying to impose their will from the start, but it resulted in more than enough offense to steal the game (if they could ever finish).
England, meanwhile, used a dominating first half to put the screws to Slovenia and advance. With the early goal and continued assault on the Slovenian goal, it seemed certain that England would crack the game open with another score or two. But despite chances from Rooney, Gerrard, Defoe, and Lampard all coming :thisclose:, the English could never rest easy in the game. At one point, a Slovenian looked cut down in the box without a call, but I couldn’t tell on the stream if it was definitely a foul. Regardless, England looked vibrant and explosive for the first time in the tournament, something the Group D winner they’ll play next will be less than thrilled to see.
Had Slovenia scored at any point, the USA finish might’ve been anti-climactic. Instead, the trudge through adversity that was Group C was transformed into the first time the USA won its group since 1930*. And it was the first American clean sheet in a World Cup group stage game* since 1950.
So how was your morning?
*Thanks to James for the corrections!