American soccer will never be the same. After years of hard work and a growing population of soccer fans, American soccer has finally turned the corner and will start receiving the media and fan attention it deserves. Landon Donovan’s 91st minute world cup goal versus Algeria has changed American soccer forever. His goal puts the US top of the group, ahead of the almighty England, and advances them to the knock-out stage. More than that, it was the first time that Americans could truly experience the passion and joy that the game of soccer can bring. After all, this is what it’s all about!
Just a few weeks ago most Americans would not be able to pick Landon Donovan out of a crowd but those days are over. He is not so much a celebrity but rather can be recognized as famous soccer player. The American public recognizes movie stars and other sports athletes only now it will start to recognize American soccer players more and more beginning with Landon Donovan.
Looking forward, no matter the outcome in the knock-out stage, Americans will, and should, view their 2010 world cup as a positive experience. They came from behind in their first two group stage games to tie the games and won their third game ultimately winning the group, ahead of England. This is no small feat and something to be proud of.
In hindsight, the Americans were expecting to advance out of their group but the way in which they did it put an exclamation on the effort. Now these expectations will become the norm and at major competition they will be expected to play better and go further in the tournament. This may take some time but by setting this goal, the Americans are making a big statement.
What die hard soccer fans have a difficult time describing to non soccer fans is the passion they share for the game. I mean true passion to the point that you cannot bear to watch the game; at the same time you cannot bear not to watch. I’m talking about heart pounding, jumping out of your seat screaming at the official through the tv as though you were on the pitch and finally celebrating a goal with your fellow countrymen. A goal that brings relief and joy that isn’t to be taken for granted. Donovan’s goal was the first time Americans could truly experience this. Watch video of Donovan’s timely goal. Just listen to the announcer’s voice and how excited he is. He knows right away the significance of this goal. “Go Go USA.”
Controversy is what it took to get the America public to notice team USA. Looking back earlier in the tournament, the last minute game winning goal versus Slovenia was called back resulting in a 2-2 tie. This is when the discussion started to heat up. Had the Americans won that game a tie in the game against Algeria would still have been enough to ensure they advance to the knock-out stage. The controversial goal called back versus Slovenia and the goal scored versus Algeria were game changing passionate events. The next most passionate thing would be have been a golden goal or a penalty shootout win. Had the US won their group stage games 1-0 and were in total control the American public may not have noticed or cared. But the way they topped the group you can’t help but notice.
Donovan’s goal was not so much about an individual achievement but rather putting the US on the map in world soccer. Playing for your country at the world cup is about being proud and representing your fellow citizens. It’s an opportunity to make a statement and prove a point when the world is watching. There is no American that would not be proud of team USA advancing in the world cup.
I am Canadian but I do follow the MLS and will certainly be watching team USA’s knock-out game as will many American fans, new ones as well. These results won’t prove to be a fluke. Americans like to win in everything and thus they won’t want to go backwards after this world cup experience. The reality is they are slowly catching up to the rest of the world in soccer and with less media pressure which will ultimately help them. Being the underdog can be a good thing. Although, it is only a matter of time before they are mentioned as a world cup favorite leading into the tournament.