Four years ago, USA captain Claudio Reyna fell into a heap, injured in possibly his last ever game in the World Cup. USA had fallen behind, 2-1 against Ghana and as Reyna left the pitch, he handed the captain’s armband to a young Landon Donovan. Sadly, Donovan crumbled under the pressure and was largely the scapegoat for disappearing in a must win match and thus ended USA’s 2006 World Cup run.
Fast forward four years, and just how satisfying was this moment for Donovan? 92 minutes had passed in the match, the Yanks were robbed a goal on a dubious offside goal, 2 minutes left. Score or go home and score Donovan did. Scapegoat four years ago, hero today. Landon Donovan will now be forever remembered for his 2010 heroics and has lived up to his billing as the greatest American soccer player of all time.
With the 1-0 win, the United States wins Group C, which could be monumental in terms of which teams USA will face in the second round. Instead of a possible Germany-Argentina-Mexico route for finishing second, it looks more like a possible Ghana-Uruguay-South Korea. The latter three are certainly not pushovers by any means, but I will take those odds.
One last note – Bob Bradley is a fantastic coach. He clearly is not a sexy option compared to his European counterparts, but in all three matches in this World Cup, he has out-coached all three of his opponents. He gambled with his Starting XI (Gomez & Bornstein), gambled with Feilhaber and pushing Dempsey up, gambled with Buddle and taking Edu out, and finally gambled with Beasely to close the game. Any complaints against him for being too conservative should now be obsolete.
And now my player grades:
(1-10; 10 = best)
Tim Howard, goalkeeper, 7 — Didn’t have much to do but whenever he was called on he performed admirably. Distribution from a keeper can be severely overlooked but it’s night and day when you have good distribution as opposed to poor. Four years ago Kasey Keller was horrific getting the ball up the field. Now? It was Tim Howard’s massive throw into Algeria’s half that started the break for the game winner.
Jonathan Bornstein, defense, 5.5 — I nearly crapped my pants when I saw his name on the Starting XI. However, Bornstein defended well and picked his runs to join the attack well. He was bailed out for horrendous defending/positioning on a blown offside call, where an Algerian attacker got behind the back line.
Carlos Bocanegra, defense, 8 — Got back into his more natural position at centerback and his leadership and demeanor held our back line together. His clearance on the 63rd minute saved a sure goal.
Jay DeMerit, defense, 7.5 — Started off a little shaky but turned into his usual self with no nonsense defending and timely tackles. Paired very well with Bocanegra and completely shut down the Algerians in the second half.
Steve Cherundolo, defense, 7.5 — Another fantastic performance from Cherundolo. Defended extremely well and joined in the attack at every possible opportunity.
Clint Dempsey, midfield, 6.5 — Unlucky to not have scored 2 or even 3 goals today although one was called back on a blown offside call. But his movement off the ball was great. He got back to defend when necessary and found pockets of space in the Algerian backline. Unlucky to hit the post on one of his efforts but showed the determination that he wanted to get on the score sheet for the team.
Maurice Edu, midfield, 6 — Has done enough to solidify a starting spot the remainder of the tournament. His physical presence locked down the middle of the field and thankfully his passing was adequate to keep the US attack alive.
Michael Bradley, midfield, 7.5 — Continues to be the Yanks most consistent player in this World Cup. Delivered a masterful performance on defense and topped it off with fantastic composure on the ball and coupled it with neat and tidy passing. Displayed his shooting ability with a rocket off a free kick late in the game that forced a solid save from M’Bohli.
Landon Donovan, midfield, 8.5 — Completed his transformation from villain to hero. Disappeared for a few moments in the second half, but was always involved in any U.S. attack using his pace and vision and deft passing. Carried the ball on that game winning goal drive, and finished it well.
Jozy Altidore, forward, 6.5 — Disappointingly overshot a rebound right in front of the goal and his touch was awful at times. But as the game went on, his power and energy was clearly wearing down the Algerian backline. Put in a solid work rate that has dogged him for his career.
Herculez Gomez, 6 — A surprise inclusion into the Starting XI as his specialty is coming off the bench. Moved well in the attack and found space. Should have done better on several of his shots but continued to show that he has a nose for the goal. Was surprised to see him taken off at the half.
Benny Feilhaber, forward, 6.5 — Looked a little lost playing out wide and didn’t really get himself involved in the game. Looked much better and composed as the game went on and once he slid back into the center of the midfield. Made some great runs and was unlucky to not have his deflected pass find the back of the net.
Edson Buddle, forward, 5.5 — Should have finished a potential game winner header right in front of the goal. But moved well and attacked the Algerians as he should have. Would have liked better passing from him though.
DaMarcus Beasley, defense, 6 — Received another questionable yellow card for hand ball when he took the ball off his chest. Held the left back position well and but was brought on really for his attacking abilities. Attacked well when he could but rarely saw the ball to do much with it.
Lastly, the U.S. fitness coach needs to get a lot of credit. During training camp he made the team run, run, run and run and all that work paid off today as it was so clear that the Yanks had the energy to finish that game strong.