Justin Lovell, Sports Editor
June 23, 2010 changed the history of United States soccer forever. With Landon Donovan’s 91-minute goal against Algeria, the U.S. won its first group stage in the World Cup in a very long time and was able to advance to the knockout stage. In the knockout stage, the U.S. was up against Ghana and unfortunately fell 2-1 in extra time. The success of the U.S. during this World Cup has boosted support for the sport like never before and it’s now more popular than ever. The real question is: what if the U.S. had been able to over come Ghana in the knockout stage, how far could they have gone?
In this week’s “What If,” the U.S. was able to beat Ghana 2-1 in extra time, sending them to the quarterfinals and erupting the nation in a soccer frenzy. The U.S. then matched up against Diego Forlan and Uruguay. Forlan dominated the World Cup, as he tied for the Golden Boot award. Throughout the entire World Cup, the U.S had been giving up early goals and this match was no different. Forlan is able to blast a shot from the top of the box to give Uruguay a 1-0 lead in the eight minute but the U.S. won’t be denied today. Right before the halfway point, Clint Dempsey gets a pass from Landon Donovan and is able to place it in the top corner in the 44th minute for 1-1 half time score. In the second half the U.S. jumps out to a fast lead as Donovan uses his deadly speed to race down the field and is able to sneak a goal past Uruguay’s keeper in the 49th minute to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead. Following the goal, they go into lock down defensive mode and survive wave after wave of attacks and are able to hold on and advance to the semi-finals, for only the second time in U.S. history.
In the semi-finals, the U.S. was matched up against the Netherlands, lead by Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. These two were on fire during the tournament as the carried the Netherlands to the World Cup finals in real life, but would they be able to again? As the game kicks off, the Netherlands are heavy favorites to come out on top, between their high powered offense and solid defense, the team is stacked but the U.S. is playing with a passion and support unseen ever by this team. The U.S. who have ridden their big three of Donovan, Dempsey and goalie Tim Howard, give the Netherlands everything they’ve got. The double d connection of Dempsey and Donovan hook up for two goals in the first 40 minutes of the game but the Netherlands don’t give up that easily, as they score an important and dramatic one right before halftime to cut the U.S. lead to one.
In the second half, the Netherlands come out with a vengeance as they do not want to be deterred again from a World Cup title. They attack and attack only to be denied again and again by Howard, though the ‘bend but don’t break’ method finally fails as he allows a Robben goal in the 86th minute to tie the game at 2-2. However this U.S. team will not be stopped and much like the final effort they made against Algeria, the same happens to the Netherlands. In the finals moments of the game, in the 93rd minute, the U.S. wins a controversial free kick 28 yards out from the goal. This play is the last of regulation if they can’t convert it but Dempsey steps up and bangs it in the top right corner, just an inch from the Netherlands keeper. The horn sounds and the U.S. has won 3-2 and are now moving on to the World Cup Finals against Germany, who managed a 2-1 upset over Spain.
In the World Cup final, it is the United States vs. Germany. The Germans have dominated not only this World Cup but many of the previous ones as well but for the Americans, this is there first time in the final. The experience and composure of the two nations make the difference in this rather one-sided game. As great as the U.S. run has been so far, the might of Germany is just too much as the win 2-0. However, the U.S. are able to hang their hats on the fact that they made an improbable run all the way to the finals and were able to shock the world, while having their best result ever in a World Cup. The United States as well has become a soccer-crazed country after seeing the team shock some mighty European countries along the way. Regardless, as the experiences have been gained and helped to continue their new march to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as they one day hope to hoist the gold.