Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup 2010: The American Moment

Keeping sporting events like yesterday's U.S.-Algeria match in perspective is always difficult in the immediate aftermath. Reaching the Round of 16 isn't virgin territory for the U.S. and advancing past the group stages was expected, so the historical implications of this match aren't as great as qualifying for the '90 World Cup or advancing to the quarters in 2002. But when you combine the drama of the last two U.S. matches with the way the country has embraced this squad over the past week and a half, American soccer is enjoying an unprecedented moment.

Every four years, lazy sports columnists trot out the tired "Soccer sucks because there isn't enough scoring" piece. Well, if Wednesday's match didn't disprove that cliche, nothing ever will. For 90 minutes, American soccer fans desperately waited for just one goal. Every passing minute and near-miss only raised the tension level. With Algeria offering little in the way of offensive creativity and England locking things down against Slovenia, a lone tally would be enough for Bob Bradley's team.

Into extra time we went, and when Landon Donovan won the match, the tension that had built all morning was released in bars in New York, Atlanta, Portland, Oregon, Las Vegas, Lincoln, Nebraska and Davis, California. (Thanks to Bill Simmons and Deadspin for collecting these clips.) Heck, even the traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange had a rare reason to celebrate.

This wasn't the greatest win in U.S. soccer history, but it was a victory that touched more Americans than any previous soccer triumph. When Paul Caligiuri launched American soccer into the modern age by sending the States to the 1990 World Cup, only a handful were watching. More eyeballs were on American soccer yesterday than ever before and the team delivered in the most dramatic way possible. Landon Donovan and his teammates produced an American moment millions will remember forever.

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