Group C Final Redux: From 90 Minutes of Agony to 12 Seconds Of Unbridled Joy

24 June 2010

US players celebrate Landon Donovan's game winning goal. (Credit Image: © epa/ZUMApress.com)
Forgive me if I don't write on Group D tonight. Group C had enough drama for me to last a lifetime.

Today was a tough day for me. If at all possible, I try to avoid sounding like a fan boy on this site, but I would only by lying, but doing myself a big injustice, if I didn't go through the emotions I have felt today.

I hated having to go to work today. The last time the United States were in a must win situation at the World Cup, I still remember where I was and the roller coaster ride I was dealing with when Ghana not only took the lead, but beat the United States. Sitting in a cubicle was where I was four years ago, and it is where I was sitting today. Having to keep the emotion bottled up that day was one of the toughest things I ever had to do, but upon hearing before I left for the office that Jonathan Bornstein was in the lineup, I was starting to have those same emotions all over again.

I do have one little request for ESPN Radio: if you ever again feel the urge to use Mike Greenburg and Mike Golic for another US pre-match show, stop yourselves dead in your tracks and just use the guys calling the match. This is the second time I've had to put up with those two stammering their way through something they may have been passionate about, but showed it in same flash and glamor as a UPS truck. While I appreciate everyone at ESPN getting in on the act, there are just some battles that are always going to be a lost cause.

The first half was nothing but sheer frustration. Without having the benefit of pictures, I was constantly having to stop myself from screaming off the top of my lungs with how lax our defending sounded. Tommy Smyth doesn't get mad too often during commentary, but he was frustrated at how disorganized the United States looked at the back. Frankly, when I heard JP scream 'off the post' in the sixth minute, my heart sunk somewhere deep at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. When I heard Clint Dempsey had a goal disallowed, I just figured 'oh here we go again'. When halftime arrived, I probably breathed for the first time in about 20 minutes.

The second half may have been more frustrating for me. Knowing the tactical changes Bob Bradley made throughout the second half, I figured by the eighty-fifth minute the Untied States were playing something to the equivalent of a 2-3-5 formation. With chance after chance being ended with the words 'saved' or 'just wide', and set pieces not coming close to goal, I sent a message to Jeff Hash at 11:31 this morning: 'we are toast, this sucks'. When Algeria started to waste time, I thought there was no way back.

When I was informed there was four minutes of stoppage time announced, I just thought it would be without incident. It was far from it. Algeria got space and put one on goal, and when Tim Howard collected, the jail break was on. In what seemed like minutes, but was only twelve seconds, I heard the words that made me start openly weeping at my desk. I wish I could have gotten a copy of JP Dellacamera's goal call, because it was one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard in my life. When I uttered the words that I thought were under my breath 'oh my God...we scored', I quickly realized how audible they were. I heard at least four people, the furthest about forty feet from where I was sitting, giving out their own small tributes to the news. At full time, it took me a good ten minutes to compose myself as I went through napkin after napkin wiping tears from my face. The afternoon just seemed to fly by, as I couldn't wait to get home to see this miracle for myself.

On my normal 15 minute ride home, I keep it on the local sports channel. To my shock, not only did they come back for their top of the hour commercial break talking about the result, when they went to their next commercial break, they aired Ian Darke's goal call. I was sitting at a red light when that happened and I started crying again. I swear I hadn't cried this much when my ex and I broke up. I got home in time to set up my normal evening routine that has been a big part of my World Cup experience, and as I started to watch the game on my laptop, the final 10 minutes were airing on ESPN Classic. I stopped what I was doing to watch those minutes as if it were live. When I actually saw the goal with my own eyes, the same routine I had gone through seven hours ago had to be repeated. It was as awesome a sight as I have ever seen.

Having watched the match now, I am still concerned about the US back line. They got very lucky today in not conceding a goal. It was frustrating to see chance after chance miss, as despite knowing the result I thought we were going to pay for it. Above all, it was nice to know that the same radio call I had heard live pieced perfectly with how the match played out before me. It isn't often radio commentary can do that, and it's something that should be commended.

As I finish this piece, ESPN2 is reairing the USA/Algeria match. I have a feeling when I see Landon Donovan's goal again, it's going to be yet another repeat performance of the water works I had not only at work, but also in the car and from my first viewing of it. While Saturday's match against Ghana maybe on the back burner for now, there are just some things even this hard ass can not only appreciate, but celebrate.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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