Donovan leads America to the promised landon
The following is a guest post by David Henry Sterry, who is co-author of “The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatics Guide, for those who like their soccer with a side of kick ass.” The opinions expressed are his own.
It was do or die today for USA and Algeria. When do you ever get to put “USA,” “Algeria,” and “do or die” in the same sentence? That’s what we love about the World Cup. After the draw that was ripped from the jaws of victory by the evil Coulibaly of Mali, everyone from noted Scottish/Berkeley soccer pundit Alan Black to venerable English broadcaster Martin Tyler to American tennis sensation Andy Roddick called the decision a pox on the backside of world soccer.
But the Americans were using the calamity for inspiration, full of brimstone and fire, mixed with piss and vinegar, confident that with their fate resting in their own hands, they could secure a victory, and move one step closer to glory. Algeria, fresh off a well-deserved tie against once mighty, but now sadly suffering England, were relishing the hot spotlight of the world, and ready to lay a large smackdown on the Americans.
For the USA, this was, in some ways, the most important game they’ve ever played. With ESPN and Nike pumping tens of millions of dollars into the World Cup, and so much riding on bringing World Cup 2018 to America, Team USA knew that a loss today would be nothing short of disastrous. A victory, on the other hand, would take them through to the next round, and after that, the sky’s the limit.
The Americans had been told in no uncertain terms by coach Bradley that today, when the whistle blows to begin the game, the team has to really start playing. Unlike their last two games, when they found themselves deep in a hole of their own digging because they played the first half like they’d taken painkillers from a bottle marked, “do not operate heavy machinery when taking this medication.”
Sure enough, five minutes in, defender Jay Maximum Demerit completely whiffed on a ball in the box, and the quick and crafty Algerians sprang like a mongoose at a snake. A crackerjack volley whizzed like shrapnel over goalkeeper T-Ho Howard’s head. In that split second, the hearts of American fans plunged like BP stock, as they threw their hands up moaning and lamenting. Barely 5 minutes in, and once again we’ve already blasted a hole in our foot.
But for once in this tournament, the soccer gods smiled on Team USA. The ball nearly broke the crossbar in half, and ricocheted harmlessly back into play. No doubt main man defender Gooch Oneywu, benched for the first time in recent memory, was wondering why he was sitting on his ass instead of clearing the ball out of trouble. Then two minutes later Thunder Cherundalo took a mighty swing and missed on another ball, and the defense, minus the towering magisterial presence of the Gooch, seemed as nervous as a virgin at a bachelor party.
Then America started finding its shape, defending with deep pressure and swarming in packs at the ball. Luckily, Maximum Demerit was bloodied early, and once his mouth started bleeding, he seemed to calm down. He became a tower of power, muscling up with hard, cold, bold shoulders, and using his gigantic melon head to control the airwaves, heading balls left right and center. After we got a shot of President Bill Clinton, the Mighty Hercules Gomez fired in a wicked cheeky shot which took the normally implacable Algeria goalie quite by surprise. The Algerian made the save, but it was a sign of things to come.
Pussycat Altidore made one of his patented Bulls of Pamplona runs, and the ball fell to Michael Bigboy Bradley, who was shoved rudely to the ground. Then he showed why he’s become one of the best players on this team. While laying supine on the field, surrounded by four Algerians, he kept flailing away at the ball, spinning on the ground like Mo Howard from the Three Stooges. This is America at its best. Sheer force of will.
We get knocked down but we keep kicking. And then the ball fell to Hercules. This was America at its worst. He should’ve easily slotted the ball home. A world-class striker will always score in that circumstance. But he panicked. Jerked the trigger instead of pulling it calmly. Lost his head in the excitement of the moment. The golden rule of soccer is: You must take your chances.
Which led to the second piece of armed robbery at World Cup 2010. Clint Eastwood Dempsey, poacher extraordinaire, was exactly where he should’ve been, parked right in the middle of the goal mouth, waiting like a patient suitor. Sure enough, the ball rolled his way, he eased it home, he started to celebrate. But suddenly it was déjà vu all over again. The linesman waves his flag for a phantom offside. Yet another legitimate goal not allowed. Instead of being ahead 1-0, the score remained tied 0-0. Word has come in that England is leading 1-0.
Still 0-0 for USA vs. Algeria though. Half-time was filled in the mouth, minds, and fingers of American fans by gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands and moaning softly in prayer. If not for the evil Coulibaly of Mali we would already be through to the next round.
Ten minutes into the second half Bigboy Bradley did it again. He made a crunching tackle, got it to Pussycat Altidore, who barreled up field with another massive run and slotted a beautiful ball to the center of the goal. It fell perfectly for Clint Eastwood Dempsey. Exactly what you live for if you’re goal scorer. All you have to do is keep your wits about you, pick a corner, and kick the ball into history. But the usually glinty, steely-eyed Clint seemed to hesitate uncertainly. He hit the ball without his usual flair and savoie faire. Instead of nestling into the back of the net, the ball clunked off the post. And this is where things got ugly.
The rebound fell beautifully right back to Clint. He still had a big sliver of goal to shoot at. All he had to do was stick it delicately into the opening. There followed a horrible sound that drowned out the billion bumblebee buzzing of the vuvuzelas. It was the sound of Clint Eastwood Dempsey choking, who shanked, missing miserably, sinking with ignoble failure.
Then it got even uglier. Altidore was hacked with cynical cruelty. In the box, an Algerian brute punched Dempsey square in the face, on purpose. As Dempsey stood over a free kick, fresh red white and blue blood heroically perched on his upper lip, he really did have the air of Clint Eastwood about him. No matter what the Algerians dished out, we Americans took every blow and never quit, never backed down.
As Cinderella’s coach was turning into a pumpkin, with the pungent funk of foul fetid failure wafting into their nostrils and filling their lungs, America finally made time stop. T-Ho made a save, then brilliantly got the ball to Manchild Donovan, who rampaged out of defense with customary American bravado, streaming with his boys like wild stallions up the pitch for one last hurrah. He slipped the ball to Altidore, who crossed the ball to Dempsey, who shot the ball directly into the Algerian goalkeeper. And for once, when the ball fell perfectly, an Americans stepped up to the moment, grabbed history by the throat, and said, Today I am a man!
Congratulations, Landon Donovan. You are now a man! Cool, calm, collected, easy as you please, he rolled the ball into the net. Fulfilling the promise of his vast potential. Rescuing America from intergalactic failure. Turning USA into a winner.
What’s next? Who cares? For now, the ever-growing rank-and-file of Sam’s Army will take a moment to bask in the ecstasy and glory of victory. It’s why we love the World Cup.