When the 90th minute came around, the United States was out of the World Cup England had beaten Slovenia to move to the top of Group C, and the United States’ 0-0 draw would leave them one point behind Slovenia for second place.
It took only seconds – one counter attack – to put the United States through to the knockout stage of the World Cup, with Landon Donovan cleaning-up the rebound of a Jozy Altidore shot to give the United States a 1-0 win over Algeria.
The play started in the U.S.‘s end, with an Algeria header saved by Tim Howard at his right post. Howard then sprung the States into a counter attack, where Donovan fed the ball to Jozy Altidore to the right of the penalty area. The striker’s shot was saved by Rais M’Bolhu, who gave up a rebound in front of goal. Donovan ran onto the ball and finished from nine yards out to given the United States their first group win in the their World Cup history.
The result comes as redemption for another frustrating match for the United States, who saw another goal controversially disallowed. Clint Dempsey’s apparent opener was judged to be from an offside position, though replays showed the attacker to be onside.
Meanwhile, England’s 1-0 lead on Slovenia meant the United States would finish third in their group without a victory, and for most of the match, it looked like the winning goal would not come. While the United States was exclusively creating the match’s best chances, luck such as Clint Dempsey hitting the post in the 57th minute or Edson Buddle heading a ball into the `keeper from four yards out seemed to point the U.S. to an early, if undefeated, World Cup exit.
But with his second goal of the tournament, Donovan made the bad calls and near-misses distant memory, putting the United States through to the knockout stage. When the whistle blew two minutes later, the U.S. had won a World Cup group for the first time in history, finishing with five points and beating England on the goals for tiebreaker.
For Donovan, who is now the scorer of the most famous goal in United States soccer history, it is a personal triumph that brings his year full circle. In that time, Donovan has regained the captaincy of the Los Angeles Galaxy, let the team to the MLS Cup final, won Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player award, and silences his critics with a successful loan spell at Everton in the English Premier League.
And today, Donovan completed his legacy by leading the U.S. to the top of Group C, winning the group over England, and leading the team into the World Cup’s knockout stage.