BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, June 23, 2010
After scoring what was easily the most important and most dramatic single goal of his career and perhaps US Soccer history, Landon Donovan feels as if he has found a new appreciation for the sport.
With the US needing a win to advance and facing a score of 0-0 as the clock ticked past the 90th minute into injury time, Donovan pounced on a rebound off a fierce counterattack and fired home the winner from seven meters out to beat Algeria.
The goal secured the US national team a spot in the round of 16 and gave the team its first ever first place finish in a World Cup group.
"When we look back on it one day, a lot of us will remember how it happened but the reality of it is that we finished ahead of England in our World Cup group," Donovan told YA of the accomplishments so far. "We've never had five points before or won a group before. To be part of that is great."
After coming off a World Cup four years ago in which he was widely publicized as a disappointment, Donovan said that this goal has given him a major lift at a personal level.
"I used to see this game we play as just a game," Donovan said after the emotional win. "I think I've realized, particularly during this tournament, that it's more than that. It's an opportunity to inspire. Not only inspire other people but inspire yourself, your teammates and to be inspired."
While the media in the days ahead will give unprecedented attention towards the winning goal, Donovan was quick to share the spotlight on the rest of his team who dominated the entire game but were unable to finish any of the chances until the very end.
"As much as tonight was about the goal, there were a lot of things that happened besides the goal that made tonight possible," Donovan said of the collective effort.
The US team appears to be peaking at just the right time. Ever since Bob Bradley announced the final World Cup roster, the team promptly won tune-up matches against Turkey and Australia then finished group play with a win and two ties.
Heading into the knockout round versus Ghana, the US team will be carrying with them significant experience in important games.
Combined with last year's Confederations Cup and the group play at the World Cup, Donovan and the US team will be adequately prepared for what lies ahead.
"It's going to help us alot for our next game," Donovan said of the US team's preparation. "Last year it helped us alot and our qualifying helped us alot but until you get to the World Cup, there is nothing like it."
"Our ability to get something out of the Slovenia game was so important," he continued. "I think we've learned a lot. We still have things to work on but we're getting better."
One of the most widely regarded strengths of this US team throughout the whole cycle has been their resiliency. They have continuously shown the ability to fight until the final whistle and fight through difficulty situations to achieve results late in the game.
Tonight in South Africa, this resiliency and team spirit were on display on the game's biggest stage. Donovan was not surprised that it came through again.
"This team has always been that way since the first time I came into this team. The spirit has always been really good. We do a good job policing each other if guys are getting out of hand or egos are getting out of hand. We do a good job of keeping guys in check. We are team, first and foremost."
When asked about the lasting impact from tonight's historic victory, Donovan admitted it could turn out to be more profound than he or anyone else even realizes.
"I think tonight is going to feel a lot for me and other people more than maybe we'll realize," he concluded.
The US will continue their 2010 World Cup campaign on Saturday evening when they play Ghana in the Round of 16.