June 19, 2010
It took a while to figure out what to say about the game yesterday. For one thing, it’s amazing how quickly you become best friends with the people sitting in adjacent seats after your team scores. This rule is especially true if you have first reached the trough of despair after falling behind by two goals in the first half. People, who had irritated you a bit earlier when they blew their vuvuzelas or blocked your view, share the pure joy of a score--joy that pours out after a long storage time.
Other lessons of the match? I think we saw the real USA team. We’re not the anointed ones, destined for greatness without trial, but we are more than just a placeholder team. The Slovenia goals demonstrated a relatively unorganized start and possibly a flawed game plan. But our second half comeback was exceptionally gutsy. As always, luck matters.
Landon Donovan’s goal was right in front of where we sat, and I have to say, he really lit a fire by ripping the ball past the goal keeper rather than looking for the pass to the trailing players. By doing it so quickly, he woke the crowd up (not so much from depression, but from the fierce focus we all had on making sure the ball found the back of the net without too much time passing).
A 2-1 score was so much more comfortable than being shut out. It meant that we could salvage the match with a bit of energy and luck. The evener sent the crowd into a frenzy, and we were all dancing and shaking the foundations.
That bring us to the goal that wasn’t. Everyone who had seen my prediction (3-2, USA) ridiculed my thought that Slovenia would score twice, or that there would be five goals in the match. At 2-2, with the USA pressing and getting over some of their first half difficulties, another goal didn’t seem like an impossibility. When Edu pushed through and netted the ball, we hugged, danced, and high-fived with everyone within reach. After several minutes of celebration, someone looked up and noticed that we weren’t lining up for a kick off. No one had any idea what happened. Clearly, no one started in an off side position, and the only bodies on the ground in the box were American. I still can say with complete honesty, that I saw no foul.
But that is soccer. What the referee says is what goes. And so we must beat Algeria. I’ll be watching with my Texas friends. Tomorrow evening we depart, with soccer on our mind and South Africa in our heart.