Justice Is Served

June 23, 2010 1:29 PM

A U.S. miracle in World Cup soccer? Oh yeah ...


Amazing, simply amazing! 

Maybe it's the kind of ending that makes for good Hollywood theater, but such endings don't happen on the international stage in soccer, not this deep into a game the U.S. team had to win. Never.

Write a story like this, and it would go under fairytales. Not even the Wizard of Oz could say this was anything but something from Dorothy's imagination. But with the clock ticking off stoppage time, the U.S. Soccer team produced a miracle like the one that millions of Americans can still remember from U.S. hockey during the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Do Americans believe in miracles? Yes!

Off the golden foot of midfielder Landon Donovan, the team's brightest star, the United States advanced Wednesday to the knockout round of World Cup play. His goal in the 91st minute was a shot Donovan couldn't miss - not so much for himself but for a nation that pines to be a marquee performer on the international soccer scene.

His goal from six yards away - a tip-in, really -- gave the United States its 1-0 victory in Pretoria, South Africa, over Algeria. One gigantic opening, one late opportunity on the pitch, one dramatic ending - all of it came together to create the delicious thrills that soccer fans in the United States needed.

This is what they had dreamed about for the boys who wore the red, white and American blue. So much had been stacked against those boys; so much had been in their favor, too. They knew their fate was in no one's hands but theirs. 

Attacking the Algerian defense early, the United States found an opportunity to forge ahead. Clint Dempsey, another U.S. star, held the World Cup hopes of the United States on his foot in the first 45 minutes. Dempsey's shot hit the goalpost. 

Damn bar!

The rebound came to Dempsey, but he skied it.

Bad luck or manifest destiny -- which one was it? 

Then, later on, Dempsey scored what looked like a sure goal. But the referees ruled him offside. No one could fault Dempsey here; the replays showed the call was bad. No one should blame the refs; the breakneck pace of play can lead to a missed call like this one. 

It didn't deter Dempsey or his U.S. teammates. They showed a resiliency that was worthy of advancing to the knockout round. They played with urgency, attacking, attacking, attacking the goal from start to finish. They had to have a victory. They were desperate for a victory. They understood what a tie meant - win or go home.

They won, and their '10 World Cup hopes survive. 

The team moves on to a more difficult round of play. It moves on with this spirited and inspired victory in tow. The U.S. team and its fans expected much, and advancing was their minimum goal.

The national, regional and youth federations have poured millions of dollars and endless hours of manpower into developing soccer, but in so many people's eyes, the United States remains a second-tier country on the international stage. 

The effort is paying off. Its soccer has improved, allowing the country to harbor dreams of a grander prize. 

While a miracle in the order of turning one loaf of bread into a meal to feed a village might be needed for the U.S. team to win the 2010 World Cup, the team showed that soccer, American-style, isn't anything the world can dismiss anymore.

Do you believe in miracles?

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