It was deja vu all over again.
And then it wasn’t.
The United States was on the verge of being eliminated from the World Cup on another incorrectly disallowed goal, setting off a firestorm of criticism, blame and debate.
With one shot, Landon Donovan rendered half a week of blown calls and blown chances meaningless.
With only minutes left in stoppage time, Jozy Altiodore came in on a rush from the left side. His shot was stopped by a sliding Rais M’Bolhi, but the rebound kicked out to Donovan. With M’Bohli out of position and the net empty, Donovan easily converted the goal, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead and setting off a wild celebration.
Donovan’s dramatic goal sent the Americans to the knockout stage of the World Cup after it looked like another disallowed goal on an offsides would keep them out.
Clint Dempsey thought he’d given the United States a 1-0 lead in the first half when he converted Herculez Gomez’s cross just in front of the net, but the goal was waved off. Replays showed that, for the second straight game, the call was wrong.
Undaunted, the United States kept attacking. Jozy Altidore had a golden opportunity later in the first half when he had the ball at the edge of the goal box and an empty net in front of him, but he misfired badly, sending the ball high.
Alexi Lalas said of Altidore’s miss: “Just put it on net and that’s a goal.”
Dempsey also had a great chance in the second half, but his shot rocketed off the crossbar, and he punched the rebound wide.
For more than 90 minutes, it looked like the blown calls and blown chances would be enough to send the United States home. But Donovan, who got the Americans on the board against Slovenia changed all that.
Now, instead of being a hard-luck team that couldn’t convert chances, the United States is a dangerous offensive team that’s scored in each of their matches and has finally seemed to put their early-game defensive struggles behind them.
What a difference a goal makes.
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