11:59 a.m. I'm not really sure what happened there: it began with Landon Donovan, and then there was some frantic pinballing by Jozy and Deuce, and then a tap of Donovan's toe, and it ended with beer, and a guy up on the bar pounding it with his fists while wearing a cape, and beer flying everywhere, just aerosolizing into a fine mist, and there's one guy high-fiving me, and another, and I'm trying to wipe beer off my laptop while the US team makes a dogpile on poor tiny elated Landon Donovan, and the girl next to me is staring at the screen with her fists in her mouth, stunned like a third-grader on Christmas whose new bike is winking at her from under the tree.
I recover...I think. The guy stays on top of the bar, stunned. My phone is on the floor. Bob Bradley smiles--no, seriously a real smile, not just exposing his teeth like other humans do when pleased, but a real, ecstatic smile. Maybe he's thinking what I'm thinking, about Balboa, and Agoos, and Harkes, and Lalas, and all the other US soccer players who slogged through intermittent international humiliations and long stretches of mediocrity, of poor funding, of having their asses handed to them by vastly more celebrated and well-equipped squads, of Landon Donovan himself, who flamed out with the rest of the USA side in the 2006 in Germany and bore too much of the blame.
And now they're playing "We are the Champions" in the bar for the U.S., who in the 93rd minute beat the Algerians, the officiating, history, and the officiating to win the group and advance to the round of 16. (I mentioned officiating twice because we had to beat it twice, and maybe more.) People are scattering already, heading--wait, no, tottering back to work to maintain an illusion of productivity for the day, but it's just an illusion, since for the next 12 hours the only thing I'll be thinking about is a ball rippling the back of the net, and the world going sideways after it for a solid and delirious two minutes.
11:50 a.m. Everything just went sideways.
11:47 a.m. Never say we aren't the most courteous team in the tournament. For instance, we get the ball in the 89th minute, and then politely give it right back to Algeria in front of the box. Amer
OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOODDDDDDDDDDDDD
11:43 a.m. 88th minute. This is what dying slowly feels like.
11:38 a.m. ENTER THE ATTACK CHICKEN! Damarcus Beasley, who at his best moments resembles a frantic rooster flying down the field, enters the game. I'm not so sure at this point they're not just going to throw him bodily into the goalie to clear the way for a Dempsey header, which would naturally go wide because we could not get a goal today if the ghost of 1970 Pele possessed his body and began ripping down the pitch.
Algeria does pick up a yellow card, though, something lustily applauded by the crowd here.
11:32 a.m. At this point I'd suggest that the US get close to goal, cocus, and then try as hard as they can NOT to put the ball in the net. Kudos to Jozy Altidore on one thing, though: he takes a mansome dive without theatrics, looking more like he's just randomly decided to tuck into a ball and roll for his own protection than a man begging for a free card.
11:30 a.m. ...and when the United States finally executes what should in any one of ten logical universes be a goal, Rais M'Bolhi teleports in front of the ball and makes a ludicrous save to keep the match at a draw.
11:22 a.m. Edson Buddle in for Edu. The hilarity of an MLS dude having anything to do with a crucial World Cup match is almost as funny as New Zealand tying Italy. (Almost.)
11:18 a.m. A positively Italian dive on the Algerians there. If you're eaten by South African wildlife in an accident later, I hope park rangers suggest you're simulating and hit the gas on the Range Rover as you plea for help, young man.
11:10 a.m. Feilhaber in for Gomez, making us a less festive and Olympian team by one. Crowd edging to tense here. Even this guy is just standing by the door, arms in the English fan cross-arm clutch, watching the US drive into the box and then boot the ball away without dividend over and over again.
He's festive, mind you...but tense.
The fear has crept in here, evidenced by the chain-smoking Pitchfork reader next to me stepping up the cigarette consumption in double time. The last near-miss off the post had half the place squatting on the floor after leaping. This will require more patience, consumed in liquid form.
Beer level: Three. It's not really helping at this point.
Times I have cursed Bornstein: None this half. He's played well. Now frame that and date it, because I said it.
"Hey, don't call me offsides for this, but that girl fifteen rows in front of us handles that vuvuzela like a pro."
10:44 a.m. English fans aren't the only surly ones here: American fans are boggled by the missed chances, especially Altidore's blasted lay-up he put in the second deck. A vuvuzela farts periodically in the background. I can't keep up with people around me, who if they are going to work are hopefully not cab drivers, pilots, or MARTA train drivers.
For the moment, we're looking like Nigeria yesterday vs. South Korea: a thousand chances to cash in, and a hand with not even the dirtiest of pennies in it.
Beer level: Two and a half. Don't judge me.
Times I have cursed Bornstein: Twice now, but mostly out of habit.
10:38 a.m. Algeria's team is made up from castoffs from the Jersey Shore casting call. That is all.
10:31 a.m. England/Slovenia is showing simultaneously at the bar here, and England fans to a man employ the same stance: arms folded, chin tucked down, and eyes fixed murderously on the screen even though they're leading Slovenia 1-0. If Fabio Capello were in this bar for an England victory, he'd be carried out on shoulders and fed beer till he died. If they somehow lose, they'd rip him limb from limb like zombies. Either way, he'd die and the English fans would be what they clearly are: surly and beyond the pale of morningtime drunk.
10:29 a.m. I love that Clint Dempsey is probably touch enough to take a slug to the leg in a barfight and continue playing, but thanks to the conventions of international soccer has learned to dive theatrically and writhe on the ground as if he's been harpooned. It's like watching a hockey player mock-weep from a paper cut.
10:21 a.m. Near pandelerium here in the bar as the entire crowd just executed a mass "happy jump! sad jump" move when the US scored another goal that a corrupt official called offsides. Perhaps it's not nice to call them corrupt. How's this: another "marketable" referee just called back. (FIFA referees! Available for the price of a chalet in Gstaad, and going fast!)
Beer level: one and a half going fast
Times I have cursed Bornstein: once, but by accident, since it was Cherundolo with some sloppy defending. But it felt right, since old habits die hard.
We're live at the Midway Pub in Atlanta, GA, to watch US vs. Algeria with those we barely know and love: U.S. Soccer fans who ditched work, family, and responsibility as a whole to support their country.
In case you're wondering who these people are: I recognize a full contingent of Atlanta bartenders, who look about three hundred years older in person, professionals who've gone AWOL for the day, a full contingent of short-pantsed hipsters, bros, bro-ettes, and at least one semi-homeless guy who nevertheless looks really happy to root for the US this morning.
This guy's here, too, and he came PREPARED:
Beer Level: ONE.
Times I have cursed Bob Bradley for starting the flammable Jonathan Bornstein at defender: zero.