June 23, 2010. A famous day, a turning point, a national celebration: the brave lads of the unsung US Soccer team have toppled mighty, um, Algeria at the last gasp, to advance to the last 16 of the World Cup.
Yes, it’s all a bit hyperbolic, but it’s a great moment, and now we know how soccer fans feel more or less all the time.
Up until deep into injury time in their match against Algeria, it looked like U-S-A! U-S-A! would be coming home from the World Cup early and aggrieved, stuck on a scoreless draw and passed in the standings by victorious England, after a nicely orchestrated first-half move ending in a Clint Dempsey gimme was called back on a dubious offsides call. Not that they’d (we’d? I’m rooting for the Dutch actually) necessarily have deserved better—just as the waving-off of their winning goal against Slovenia followed a dismal first-half defensive display, this disallowed goal preceded a parade of squandered chances: Dempsey hitting the woodwork from an angle and then scything the rebound wide of an empty net, Jozy Altidore skying a loose ball in the box in the first half, and then heading straight at Algeria’s standout goalkeeper Rais Ouheb Mbouli from the penalty spot in the second. Two minutes into injury time, they allowed Algeria a free header well saved by Tim Howard—and then, on the break, finally got one past Mbouli, who dove to clear Altidore’s centering pass off of Dempsey’s feet, but only as far out as Donovan.
So, the cardiac kids move on to play… Serbia? Probably Serbia, this Saturday afternoon. It should be fun cramming into a bar, continuing to care about soccer for a little longer.