Wow – what to start with this week? Well of course Liverpool clinching the EPL Title earlier than anyone is the first order of business. Chelsea’s win over Man City where US Star Christian Pulisic started, scored and was perhaps the best player on the field, led to Liverpool clinching the title. Huge for Liverpool as this championship club has finally returned to glory under the leadership of Jurgen Klopp. He promised and has now delivered both last season’s Champions League title and this year’s EPL title – their first in 30 years. My buddy and fellow Carmel FC coach Bill “Anfield” Spencer is why I became a Liverpool fan and boy is he happy today!! Congrats to all you Liverpool fans – You’ll Never Walk Alone! Ok I can’t go further without mentioning Christian Pulisic and his return to grace at Chelsea after injuries plague his last couple of months of play. The refreshed Pulisic is back to looking like his old self making darting runs down the left wing and delivering some fantastic passing and now scoring along the way. I am hopeful Pulisic will find his place and help keep Chelsea in the hunt for Champions League play next year as they now have a 5 point cushion over Man U for 4th.
NWSL Starts Sat 12:30 CBS/2023 WC to Australia/NZ
On the Women’s side of the game – the NWSL becomes the first US Sport back this Saturday as North Carolina faces the Portland Pride at 12:30 pm on CBS. Not to soapbox – but US Women’s soccer fans – if you want to see the ladies games on broadcast TV – now is the time to watch and be vocal. Post on social media that you are watching – CBS has only agreed to show the first game of the tourney and the final on CBS. The others are on CBS online and CBS SportsNetwork which many folks don’t have. But maybe if millions tune in to watch on Saturday – maybe CBS will include at least more weekend games in the future. Speaking of future – huge congrats to Australia/New Zealand for winning the rights to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Not sure what time the US games will be on – as they are like 12 hours in front of us – but we’ll see what happens.
Indy 11 Return July 11, MLS July 8
Great news that the Indy 11 and USL will return on July 11 with a 16 game regular season followed by a single elimination playoff. This World Cup style return should be fun for players and fans alike. More details coming. MLS is still on track to return with some solid ESPN coverage when its season kicks off July 8th from Orlando. Morning 9:30 am games will be on ESPN, with late night evening games split between Fox Sports 1 and ESPN. Hopefully this will help MLS get a better foothold in the US Sport pecking order if they do this right.
US – 10th Anniversary of Goal – Goal – GO USA
This past Monday was the 10th anniversary of Landon Donovan’s last second goal (92nd minute) vs Algeria in what some think is the greatest moment in US Soccer history from 2010’s World Cup advancing as group winners. Lots of Stories below.
GAMES ON TV
Fri June 26
3:45 pm ESPN+ Juventus vs Lecce
Sat, June 27
7:30 am NBCSN Aston Villa v. Wolves, 7:30 a.m. NBCSN
9:30 am Fox Sport1 Dortmund (Reyna) vs Hoffenhiem
9:30 am FS2 Wolfsburg vs Bayern Munich
12:30 pm ESPN+ FA Cup Norwich City vs Man United
12:30 pm CBS North Carolina vs Portland Thorns NWSL
Sun, June 28
5 pm CBSSN Orlando Pride vs Chicago Red Stars NWSL
Sun, June 28
8 am ESPN Sheffield United vs Arsenal. FA Cup
11 am ESPN or + Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City FA Cup
11 am ESPN+ Milan vs Roma
1:30 pm ESPN+ FA Cup New Castle vs Man City
Monday, June 29: Crystal Palace v. Burnley, 3 p.m. NBCSN
Tues, June 30
3:15 pm NBCSN Brighton v. Man United, 3:15 p.m.
4 pm beIN Sport Barcelona vs Athletico Madrid
Wednesday, July 1: Arsenal v. Norwich, 1 p.m. NBCSN
Wednesday, July 1: West Ham v. Chelsea, 3:15 p.m. NBCSN
Thursday, July 2: Sheffield United v. Tottenham, 1 p.m.
Thursday, July 2: Man City v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. NBCSN,
Wed, July 8 MLS Returns
NWSL Challenge Cup schedule
NC Courage vs Portland Thorns FC | June 27 | 12:30 pm CBS
OL Reign vs Sky Blue FC | July 1 10 am | CBS Sports Network,
NC Courage vs Houston Dash| July 2 10 am | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,
C Courage vs Utah Royals FC | July 12 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,
Challenge Cup quarter finals | July 17-18 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,
Challenge Cup semi finals | July 22 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,
Challenge Cup final | July 26 | CBS
WOMEN’S SOCCER TAKES CENTER STAGE
- U.S. stars Heath, Press back out of NWSL restart
• Orlando out of NWSL Cup after 10 positive tests
• How the NWSL plans to be the first U.S. team sport back
LIVERPOOL WINS EPL, Pulisic Scores Again
Klopp delivers on Liverpool promise
Liverpool win Premier League
Liverpool’s Robertson praises ‘father figure’ Klopp
Liverpool’s overwhelmed Klopp leaves interview in tears of joy
Liverpool players past and present celebrate on social media
Dalglish hails ‘fantastic’ Klopp as Liverpool end 30-year title wait
Coronavirus: the final twist in Liverpool’s Premier League title tale
Earliest Premier League champion: Is Liverpool fastest to clinch?
MLS –returns July 8
Indy 11- Returns July 11
NWSL Challenge Cup’s biggest storylines as U.S. team sports return
10:00 AM ETGraham HaysESPN.com
This was supposed to be the summer in which the National Women’s Soccer League built on the global success of last year’s World Cup. A chance to show off how eight years had nurtured a league that mass audiences could and hopefully would soon appreciate on its own merits.
But what might have been the next step for women’s soccer in this country is now more like a first step for sports in general in the United States, as the NWSL becomes the first league in a team sport to return to competition amidst the very much ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 NWSL season has, in all likelihood, morphed into the NWSL Challenge Cup, the monthlong tournament that will play out in the Salt Lake City area.
- U.S. stars Heath, Press back out of NWSL restart
• Orlando out of NWSL Cup after 10 positive tests
• How the NWSL plans to be the first U.S. team sport back
This is not a perfect arrangement. It wasn’t perfect before Tobin Heath, Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe opted out of the event over concerns about the pandemic, as all players had the right to do without penalty. It wasn’t perfect even before Orlando Pride withdrew en masse, the team unable to travel to Utah after 10 positive COVID-19 tests among players and staff.
But even without some stars on the field and without fans in the stands, this won’t be a summer without soccer. So after months of talk about how sports might return, let’s spend at least a little time looking at some of the stories that will shape this unique eighth season.
How does the Challenge Cup work?
It is probably worth starting with a quick refresher on exactly what we’re talking about. It helps that the format wasn’t all that complicated even before Orlando withdrew from the event.
There are now eight teams involved in the tournament, and every team is guaranteed to play at least five games. There aren’t specific groups in the preliminary phase, which begins June 27 and concludes July 13, but it works on the same basic premise as the group stage of any major tournament. With Orlando absent, all eight teams will advance to the knockout rounds. So the opening phase is now only about seeding and getting time on the field after the long layoff.
The league initially considered placing higher stakes on this phase of the tournament, with only four teams advancing and knockout play beginning with the semifinals, but settled on this as the wiser choice for players and teams coming out of three months of limited activity.
Teams may carry as many as 28 players. All players will be allowed to dress for games.
There will be no extra time played in any games in the tournament. Knockout games still tied at the end of 90 minutes will go directly to penalty kicks. As is the norm across the soccer world at the moment, teams will be able to make five substitutions during games (which can be made in no more than three stoppages). Yellow cards will be erased after the quarterfinals, but any player who picks up two yellow cards in the preceding games will be suspended for a game.
The quarterfinals will be played July 17 and 18, with the semifinals on July 22 and the final on July 26. The semifinals and final will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium, home of the Utah Royals and Real Salt Lake.
What hasn’t changed in the NWSL?
As you might have noticed, the world looks quite a bit different than it did three or four months ago, let alone when NWSL teams last took the field in real games in October.
One smidgen of familiarity amidst all of that change, at least when it comes to women’s soccer in this country, is that everyone is still chasing the North Carolina Courage.
Well past the plucky upstart that North Carolina coach Paul Riley still occasionally — and endearingly — tries to claim as an identity, the Courage are back-to-back NWSL champions and three-time reigning Shield winners as the regular-season champions. And at least on paper, they enter the Challenge Cup as strong as they were a season ago, when their goal difference was better than that of the other three playoff teams combined and they routed Chicago 4-0 in the final.
Midfield mainstay McCall Zerboni moved on to Sky Blue and Heather O’Reilly eased gracefully into retirement. But the Courage added Hailie Mace, the uberversatile No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft. The U.S. national team contingent of Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn, Jessica McDonald, Samantha Mewis and Lynn Williams are all on the Challenge Cup roster, along with Brazilian rising star Debinha, who was in the top 10 in goals and assists a season ago.
Rather than any sign of the standard slipping, the challenge remains finding a team to rise to it as the Courage seek to add to their collection of trophies.
Why is the Pacific Northwest still the center of attention?
Even as the Courage set the standard and Salt Lake City becomes the geographic hub for a summer, the Pacific Northwest remains central to the league’s identity.
The region has always been the league’s heartland, from the crowds, star power and wins in Portland to the success of Laura Harvey’s Reign in the early years and Vlatko Andonovski’s stopover en route to the U.S. women’s national team. The Pacific Northwest always matters.
Even without Heath and Rapinoe in the weeks ahead, it still does.
Reign FC is now OL Reign, the name a reflection of a potentially paradigm-shifting business model that saw French giant Olympique Lyonnais take a majority ownership stake. Previously among the models of independent ownership under Bill Predmore, who remains CEO, OL Reign is now a test case for the kind of European investment that has long been rumored from clubs like Barcelona and Manchester City. These days, that will also make it a test case for the effects of the coronavirus economy on such investment in women’s soccer.
Without Rapinoe, new coach Farid Benstiti must prove able to debut as smoothly as Andonovski did following Harvey. But befitting the new international ownership, bringing in new signings or loanees Alana Cook (PSG), Shirley Cruz (PSG), Adrienne Jordan (Birmingham City) and Yuka Momiki (NTV Beleza) makes for an intriguing start.
The offseason changes in Portland have nothing to do with the boardroom and everything to do with a restructuring on the field. The Thorns didn’t just tinker around the edges. They went for the renovation, trading U.S. national team defender Emily Sonnett among other moves in an effort to stock up on a youth movement led by No. 1 overall pick Sophia Smith. And with the demise of U.S. Soccer’s short-lived development academy program and college athletic departments facing coronavirus-related budget chasms, Smith isn’t just a talented young goal scorer. After leaving Stanford following just two seasons, she represents at least a toe in the water of an entirely different model of player development increasingly steered by NWSL clubs.
Yet even without Heath and after dispatching Australian rising star Ellie Carpenter to Lyon in recent transfer, the Thorns hardly tore things down to build from scratch. Christine Sinclair is on board for the tournament, and Portland also brought Becky Sauerbrunn home in a move that erases a weak spot. Win now and win later. That has always been Portland’s NWSL remit.
What is holding back the challengers?
Utah Royals appeared on the verge of showing off the league’s new system of allocation money when it was reported in April that the team was close to signing Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan and France’s Sarah Bouhaddi away from European giant Lyon.But as Utah now welcomes the rest of the NWSL to its home turf for the Cup, that megadeal appears to have been scuttled or at least put on long-term hold. The imports certainly won’t be around this summer. And even worse for the immediate future, Utah won’t just be missing Sauerbrunn, traded to Portland, but also Press, who cited COVID-19 concerns in opting out.Those personnel issues further underscore why North Carolina will be so difficult to dislodge. Every potential challenger has its own pressing issues. Some of those are pandemic-related — such as Press and Rapinoe electing not to participate in the Challenge Cup.Some are injury related. With a fresh start for Mallory Pugh and a remarkable rebuilding job under general manager Alyse LaHue, Sky Blue looked fast-tracked for playoff contention — no small feat for a franchise so recently a dysfunctional mess. New additions Midge Purce and McCall Zerboni still make this an interesting team in the Challenge Cup. But without Carli Lloyd and Pugh due to injuries, the revival may continue at a more measured pace.
Other issues come from the natural ebb and flow of any league even in normal times. The closest challenger a season ago and still a model of management stability, Chicago nonetheless must replace two-time reigning MVP Sam Kerr, who signed with Chelsea. If offseason addition Kealia Ohai is a significant part of that answer, the rest of the roster remains loaded.But that is still a big “if” when it comes to replacing someone like Kerr.Washington still has Rose Lavelle, Andi Sullivan and first-round pick Ashley Sanchez among its many youthful assets. But the very act of trading Pugh — envisioned as a franchise centerpiece when signed out of high school — is proof of how difficult it is for a team to move from potential to the playoffs, let alone championships.Like Sky Blue, and like Orlando before its withdrawal, Houston hopes to accelerate a rebuilding plan. And a knockout tournament may be more conducive to highlighting potential — all it takes to make an impression is one good day rather than season-long consistency.If the question is who can topple North Carolina, it’s not a promising sign that most of the challengers have more questions of their own than answers.
How could the Challenge Cup reshape 2021?
Instead of mere months to prepare for his first major tournament as coach of the U.S. women’s national team, Andonovski now has another year in which to get ready.
That is good news for someone whose almost obsessive commitment to preparation and scouting helped make him such a success in the NWSL and earn his current position.
That’s all the more true now that Andonovski will actually have at least a month of soccer to evaluate. Whether or not the Olympic audition process is wide open, there is at least a chance for players to make their case for 2021.
Granted, all the same constrictions of an 18-player roster remain. Andonovski already had enough depth chart congestion to ensure some World Cup winners would miss the Olympics. And now instead of an arguably long-shot candidacy a couple of months after giving birth to her first child, Alex Morgan will presumably be something close to a roster lock. That is one less spot.
But for emerging players like defender Mace, the former No. 2 overall pick who now joins North Carolina after beginning her professional career abroad, or Washington defender Tegan McGrady, it’s one more year of development. Perhaps even two-time reigning Hermann Trophy winner Catarina Macario, who gets another year to sort out her citizenship status and will be a professional by next summer, has time to get in on the discussion through a college season, whatever shape that takes, or national team camps later in the year.
The Challenge Cup is also an opportunity for veterans like Chicago’s Morgan Brian and OL Reign’s Allie Long to show Andonovski they have more tournaments to play. Both were part of the World Cup winners last summer but did not participate in Olympic qualifying earlier this year. And it’s a chance for Chicago’s Casey Short, Washington’s Sullivan and North Carolina’s Williams — all part of qualifying after missing the World Cup — to further enhance their cases.
How will the league handle the coronavirus during the tournament?
In his role as part of the league’s medical task force, Dr. Daryl Osbahr said when the NWSL announced the Challenge Cup that positive tests for COVID-19 were inevitable. And indeed, the league announced the first such test last week, without naming the player. Osbahr also said he hoped the protocols in place could forestall an entire team needing to shut down.
That obviously didn’t happen in Orlando, a reminder of how challenging it is to play team sports amidst a pandemic.
The league has been transparent about its health protocols for the tournament. Any positive test, asymptomatic or otherwise, triggers a sequence that includes quarantining the player in question and conducting contact tracing and testing for the rest of the team.
Players who test positive but remain asymptomatic can return to the training facility for light training and team meetings after 10 days and full training after 14 days.
Players who test positive and also show symptoms will receive local medical evaluation and hospitalization as necessary. They are prohibited from any exercise for 14 days and can resume light exercise only after seven days without symptoms and after an array of tests, including an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram.
Individuals who are deemed to have high-risk contact with anyone who tests positive will also be quarantined and players will be prohibited from returning to practice for 14 days.
Whether or not any plan is sufficient for current circumstances is difficult to predict. Numerous European soccer leagues have restarted in recent weeks without widespread problems, including the women’s league in Germany where Wolfsburg just wrapped up a title. But in this country, even putting aside the Pride for a moment, entities from professional baseball teams to colleges have paused workouts or shuttered facilities in response to positive tests.
And as in Orlando, geography might not help. According to data from The New York Times, Salt Lake and neighboring Utah counties are among those areas in the state experiencing an increase in cases over the past two weeks. The cities of Herriman and Sandy, where all games will be played, are in the southern portion of Salt Lake County just north of Utah County.
Pulisic, Willian help Chelsea expose Man City weakness to seal Liverpool’s Premier League title
6:46 PM ETJames OlleySenior Writer, ESPN FC
The inevitable is delayed no longer: Jurgen Klopp’s side may not be able to celebrate the club’s first title in 30 years with their supporters but they can enjoy a tour as champions with more dates than some theatre runs in London’s West End.Liverpool’s margin of victory with seven games to spare is a testament to their unrivalled mixture of class and consistency. It is also evidence of City’s defensive fallibility and the yawning chasm the chasing pack must make up to create more of a contest next season.The most encouraging thing for Chelsea is that, while this performance merely reinforced where City have fallen short, the home side produced evidence that they could bridge the gap and mount a sustained title challenge. Injured at the start of 2020, Pulisic watched during the league’s three-month lockdown as Chelsea quietly went about bolstering their attacking power. The American international arrived last summer as the heir to Eden Hazard‘s throne, a £58 million ($64m) lifeline for a club unable to sign players due to a transfer ban, yet a year later has watched as the club strengthens in the positions he wants to make his own.
Pulisic might have been alarmed further by being left out of the starting line-up at Aston Villa upon the resumption of play, but an equalising goal there preceded a place in the XI against City and he was not about to waste the opportunity.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard targeted the acquisitions of Hakim Ziyech from Ajax and RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner after bemoaning Chelsea’s wastefulness in front of goal. It is why the club continue to monitor Bayer Leverkusen‘s Kai Havertz, whose signing — if completed — would further alter the forward line.The onus is therefore on those in situ to respond and Pulisic did just that on Thursday, capitalising on an error to give Chelsea the lead after 36 minutes. When Benjamin Mendy passed the ball into space rather than to Ilkay Gundogan, Pulisic took the chance to run at goal.There was plenty to do from inside the centre circle in his own half, but a change of pace enabled him to breeze past Mendy and burst clear. Maintaining that unrelenting speed, Pulisic then curled a right-foot shot from the edge of penalty area, beyond Ederson and into the corner. The whole run comprised six touches. Composed, clinical, confident. Everything Lampard wants from his attacking players.”I wanted to protect [Pulisic] a bit against Villa, see if he could make an impact,” Lampard said. “I always planned to start him against City because I know what he can bring in these sort of games and he brought it. He did really well. He needs to keep working. He’s a young player but with so much talent, he can get better and better.”The opening goal came at a time when the hosts were just starting to find ways around the City press. Lampard shouted his orders from the touchline, coaching his players through practically every moment of those intense phases after Pep Guardiola’s side initially appeared likely to pass Chelsea into submission on a hot evening in London.The second half followed a similar pattern. City began strongly in search of an equaliser, albeit blunted by the lack of a potent centre-forward in Sergio Aguero‘s absence. Guardiola opted for Bernardo Silva as a false nin but abandoned the plan 10 minutes after the break, introducing Gabriel Jesus and It was Kevin De Bruyne, however, who hauled City level with a 55th-minute free kick of such irresistible power and placement that Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga could only fall to his knees in response after the ball flew past him.
Knowing they need a win to delay Liverpool’s party, City continued to live dangerously at the back. Pulisic almost scored a second after rounding Ederson and steering a shot goalward, but Kyle Walker somehow scrambled it off the line.
Chelsea’s substitutes, amassed in the bottom tier of the East Stand next to the dugout, cried for video technology to intervene, but referee’s Stuart Attwell’s watch did not buzz. With 12 minutes to go, though, VAR intervened in decisive fashion.Willian burst clear down the right and found substitute Tammy Abraham, whose shot was saved by Ederson. As Pulisic and then Abraham tried to force the ball over the line, Fernandinho shovelled the ball away with his left arm.Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and a host of other guests every day as football plots a path through the coronavirus crisis. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).Attwell missed it, but Craig Pawson at Stockley Park did not. In a week that saw Lampard hail Willian’s professionalism and impact on younger players, the Brazilian international stepped up to slot home the winning penalty that consigned City to their fate and left Chelsea savouring a vital win in pursuit of Champions League football.Willian has won five major honours with Chelsea but news he had extended his contract until the end of the season got a mixed reaction, even more so the possibility of signing a new deal to stay beyond that. Six years on from writing the epitaph to Liverpool’s title challenge with a goal in Chelsea’s win at Anfield, though, the winger landed the decisive blow in the Anfield club’s maiden Premier League success.”I’m delighted with Willian this season,” Lampard said. “The players look up to him. He’s a senior professional within the group but he has quality, he has work ethic and it was a continuation of his form for big parts of the season.”Chelsea are addressing their flaws, though whether that improvement can extend to titles challenges remains to be seen. City, albeit starting from a higher level, have to do the same.
Full match schedule and TV info unveiled for MLS is Back Tournament
The tournament kicks off on Wednesday, July 8 with a Group A doubleheader: Orlando City SC face Florida foes Inter Miami CF (8 pm ET), followed by Chicago Fire FC taking on Nashville SC (10:30 pm ET). Both matches will air on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and TSN in Canada.
ESPN will oversee all game production for MLS broadcast partners throughout the tournament, delivering produced feeds of all matches, including unique and experimental technology. Each broadcast partner will use their own on-air talent and graphics packages.
- USA: All 54 matches will be televised nationally on ESPN, ESPN2, FOX, FS1, and TUDN. All ESPN/2 matches will also be streamed live on the ESPN App. FOX/FS1 matches and TUDN matches will be streamed on the FOX Sports App and TUDN App, respectively. In addition, the 10 matches that are broadcast on TUDN exclusively in the US will be streamed in English on the @TUDN Twitter handle.
- Canada:TSN will carry every match, including streaming on the TSN App. TVA Sports will provide French-language coverage of all three Montreal Impact group matches along with select additional matches, including streaming on TVA Sports App.
- World:The tournament will also air around the world via the league’s international broadcast partners.
Breakfast with MLS
A total of seven matches will take place at 9 am ET, all of which will air be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Deportes in the U.S. and on TSN in Canada. The first morning match will be played on July 9 when New York City FC face the Philadelphia Union.
Here are the dates and TV info for the marquee rivalry matches during the Group Stage presented by Heineken:
- July 8: Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF (ESPN, TSN @ 8ET)
- July 11: Atlanta United vs. NY Red Bulls (FOX, TUDN, TSN @ 8ET)
- July 11: FC Cincinnati vs. Columbus Crew SC (FS1, TUDN, TSN @ 10:30ET)
- July 12: Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids (ESPN, TSN @ 10:30ET)
- July 15: Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC (TUDN & Twitter, TSN, TVAS @ 8ET)
- July 18: LAFC vs. LA Galaxy (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN @ 10:30ET)
- July 20: Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (TUDN & Twitter, TSN @ 10:30ET)
The group stage will take place over 16 consecutive days with each group match counting toward the 2020 regular season standings. All clubs will have at least four full days between matches.
The Knockout Round presented by Audi will take place as follows:
- Round of 16:Four straight days of doubleheaders (July 25-July 28)
- Quarterfinals:Doubleheaders on July 30 & August 1
- Semifinals:August 5 & August 6
- Final: August 11 (8 pm ET)
June 23, 2010: The day Landon Donovan lifted a nation
10 years later, the moment still carries the day.
June 23, 2010. It’s a day that will live forever for fans of the United States Men’s National Team. Everyone knows where they were for the final group stage match for the USMNT in the 2010 World Cup: their first ever match against Algeria, with a spot in the Round of 16 very much in doubt.Sitting on 2 points after draws against England and Slovenia, the USMNT needed a win. England and Slovenia were playing each other at the same time, and while a England draw or loss would help in the event of a draw, any loss would see the USMNT leave South Africa much earlier than they wanted.So, on an abnormal Wednesday morning just a couple days into summer, we all called in sick to work or took an early lunch break. For me, I said I had a doctor’s appointment and that they had to run a bunch of tests. For those who weren’t lucky enough to be in Pretoria that day, we gathered in front of television sets and big screens in bars, restaurants, homes, parks, and plazas. We were dressed in red, white, and blue. We were hoping for the opportunity to advance out of the group that British media declared “E.A.S.Y.” when it was set at the World Cup draw. We would have to wait over 90 minutes from the start of the whistle for that hope to turn into reality.
Rewatching the game last night, for the first time in several years, brought me back to that day. I was at Molly Malone’s in Washington, DC, crammed into the second floor of the bar with the American Outlaws DC Chapter, which I helped start. My boss thought some doctor was checking my vitals and my blood pressure. I didn’t need a doctor to know my blood pressure was through the roof, just like the rest of the bar. We didn’t know what was coming at that point in time, and watching the match again last night brought me right back to the ups and downs of emotions we all felt during that match.How many times did we yell in frustration or clap our hands in anger when we came thisclose to scoring seemingly dozens of times? Whose hearts dropped into their toes when Algeria hit the crossbar in the first few minutes of the match? Did you become as apoplectic as I did when Clint Dempsey scored in the 21st minute, only for it to be wrongly called offside?
How many sitters did we miss during that match? 5? 10? 1234123423? Somehow, those numbers seemed small as the frustration built every time a ball went from 2 yards in front of the net into the stands. The hope faded little by little. We returned our minds to that Dempsey goal that was wrongly called back, thinking back to Maurice Edu’s goal that was wrongly called back against Slovenia, and we realized that the United States were about to be sent out of the World Cup because two referees jobbed us.
We knew that Jermaine Defoe had scored in the 23rd minute against Slovenia, so the chips were really against us. Only a win would suffice. We couldn’t rely on a goal from Slovenia, and we knew we couldn’t rely on the referees. We had to score a goal, free and clear, no take backs. Only, that goal never came. We entered the 89th minute and frustration turned to anger, at Bob Bradley and the guys for not getting it done.
We enter stoppage time, and 4 minutes are announced on the clock. We get another wave of hope. “LET’S GO BOYS!” “COME ON, COME ON!” “WE NEED THIS!” We enter the 91st minute and Algeria is pressing with the ball, and a small cross gets sent into the box and a short header by Algeria is handled by goalkeeper Tim Howard.
He immediately throws it forward to a sprinting Landon Donovan down the right side of the field. The crowd starts buzzing. The bars, homes, plazas all start buzzing as they see Landon Donovan sprinting down the right flank. They see the USMNT have numbers as Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey run up alongside him. Donovan passes the ball to Altidore, who dribbles towards the endline. “SEND IT IN!” Altidore sends the low cross towards the front of the goal, Dempsey tries to nutmeg Algerian goalkeeper Raïs M’Bolhi, but it bounces off him and pops out a few yards. A second seemed like a lifetime for all of us as we held our breath. “Not again,” we thought.
And then out of the right corner of our eye, everyone sees Landon Donovan…
He DID it. Landon Donovan scores. We listen to the call from Ian Darke and you try to hold back the tears. Here’s the call from Ian Durke for that Goal
If you watch the reaction of Andres Cantor, any tears you were holding back were set free: But this call by the Legendary Andres Cantor in Spanish Really Brings it to Life
Bedlam. Elation. Jubilation. Exhilaration. Ecstasy. We all react to the new shot heard ‘round the world. Some are with hundreds or thousands of our new best friends, some are at home by themselves. But, the bedlam, the elation, the ecstasy speaks all languages:
We all remember where we were. We remember who we were with. We remember the hugs, the kisses, the high fives, the beer thrown in the air. We remember how every player celebrated: Landon Donovan running with arms outstretched, sliding into the corner with his team jumping on top of him, taking the corner flag with them. Jozy Altidore jumping on top of the dogpile, followed by Jay DeMerit doing a full somersault on top of that. Tim Howard just patting the ground in front of his goal like he was replacing a divot, his emotions racing. Bob Bradley just running down the sideline, arms in the air triumphant, his staff emotional, fans in the stands jumping up and down, in disbelief of what they had just seen.
How could anyone process what that meant? At that moment, we had that euphoria and then realized we had 2 minutes or so left in stoppage time. Forget our hearts being in our throats, every single second was our hearts in our hands while we were squeezing it tighter and tighter. Finally, after what seemed like a decade, the final whistle sounds. We pause to look at that score: USA 1-0 Algeria. We look at the other match score: Slovenia 0-1 England. We were through. Not only that, we had won the group. An incredible wave of emotion. We were soaked in beer, sweat, tears, and maybe a few bruises from our celebrations.10 years ago today…we saw our moment. Landon Donovan provided a goal that lifted a nation. We all could fly that day. It’s the greatest moment in USMNT history, and that moment is forever etched in the history books: Donovan 90+1’.
Donovan’s World Cup goal against Algeria 2010: The oral history of the most famous moment in USMNT history
Landon Donovan, USMNT midfielder 2000-2014: I’m thinking in my head like, “I just gotta cheat up the field as much as I can.”
It’s almost like [Tim Howard] had been surveying the field before he got the ball. In case he did get the ball, get his hands on the ball, he was ready. And so when he grabbed it, I knew there was a lot of space in front of me. So I took off in that moment, and he threw it perfectly.
At that moment, my thought was just make the right decision, because I’ve been in situations like that thousands of times in practice or in games. So I wanted to get the ball out in front of me, so we’re putting pressure on them quickly. And then when Jozy [Altidore] peeled out to the right, Edson [Buddle] peeled out to the left and Clint [Dempsey] was running centrally, and instinct kind of takes over at that point. Get it out to Jozy and I knew he was gonna put it in a good spot from there, and then it was crash the goal and put them under pressure.
There are not many forwards in the history of our country who would have run that hard to get across the goalie and put himself in position like Clint did. In the moment, I don’t think there’s any chance that the ball is going to end up anywhere other than in the back of the net, because once [Altidore] rolls it in front, I’m thinking through Clint or Edson or an own goal, somehow that ball’s gonna end up in the goal or at least close to the goal.
I was directly behind Clint, but I actually can’t even see the ball. And so their interaction happened and then [the ball] rolled out. I didn’t even know. I wasn’t thinking about timing my run, my momentum was carrying me into the box and then that’s where the ball ended up.
In the 91st minute of the United States’ World Cup group-stage finale against Algeria on June 23, 2010, in Pretoria, South Africa, Donovan pounced on that ball, scoring the goal that would send the Americans into the round of 16 after their 1-0 win and set off a cultural phenomenon, putting the U.S. men’s national team into the collective consciousness of the country like never before. Ten years later, ESPN spoke to Donovan, his teammates, members of the media, fans, and those whose soccer careers were in part shaped by that moment. This is the story of that night in Pretoria, South Africa, the most historic moment in USMNT history.
Editor’s note: The text has been edited for length and clarity. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, Noah Davis, Jason Davis, Arch Bell and Austin Lindberg contributed to this report.
The ghost foul
The U.S., arguably, should not have been in the position it found itself in against Algeria.
A welcome 1-1 draw against England in its opener positioned the Americans well to advance from the group. The Three Lions were widely expected to top Group C, and a point on the board, with encounters against Slovenia and Algeria to come, put Bob Bradley & Co. on course to reach the knockout rounds.
But a controversial 2-2 draw against Slovenia dampened that enthusiasm. A phantom foul called on Maurice Edu while he volleyed home a Donovan free kick cost the U.S. two points, and instead of heading into the group finale on top of the table and needing only a draw vs. Algeria to reach the round of 16, it now had to win.
Maurice Edu, USMNT midfielder 2007-2014: I’m still at a loss of words about how to describe what the hell went wrong during that play. I know I’m not fouling him because I’m ahead of him and now he’s trying to catch me. So I literally go through the box uncontested and Landon couldn’t have played a better ball, it hits me in stride, left foot, boom, goal. I’m not top 10 on SportsCenter, I’m No. 1! In the moment, I went back to being a kid, kicking a ball around the house, the commentary, “Mo gets the ball, it’s the last minute of the World Cup, he shoots, he scores!” So this was my moment, this was that moment.I hear the whistle blow and I’m like, “What the hell?” Everyone is up in arms, protesting, going crazy, Clint, Landon. They were arguing with the referee, who had no answer for us then, had no answer for us after the game and to this day he probably has no answer. If that goal counts, that’s probably the greatest comeback in U.S. soccer history.I look at it and think, “F—, that sucked, that was my moment, that was my goal, that was my place in history.” But you know what, it led to an incredible moment in the Algeria game and now you’ve seen what it’s made for.
Donovan: I saw it go in, but I didn’t know what happened. So at that moment, you just have to assume that something happened because I didn’t know any different. The only thing is the reaction of our players, looking around like, “Who are you calling that on?” Nobody can figure out who they are calling. And so I think it’s myself and Michael [Bradley], we go to the ref and I don’t think he only spoke French, but we were just trying to figure out like, “Can you just tell us what the call was and who you’re calling it on?” and he didn’t want anything to do with it. Maybe it was a language thing. It seemed like he made up his mind before the play that he was going to call a foul. I have known referees to do that if they feel that they got a previous call wrong. It just seemed like he had made up his mind. And you know, it wasn’t until later watching the replay that I realized that there was no foul, and actually if you’re going to call a foul, it should have been against a Slovenian player on a few of our guys.
Tim Howard, USMNT goalkeeper 2002-2017: The infamous shirt tug where everyone is like they’re in a WWE wrestling match. I don’t know what the referee saw. To be in with a shout of winning that game, and to show the perseverance and battle back said a lot about our team.
Bob Ley, ESPN 1979-2019: I was at that match, and I go back and I still look for that foul that took away [Edu’s] goal in much the same way that I look for how much Michael Ballack was offside in 2002. I still give him s—. “Ah Bob, you’re such an a–hole.”
Jonathan Bornstein, USMNT defender 2007-2011: We thought we got robbed. But, you know, very quickly, you’ve got to move on. It’s out of our hands now. Let’s focus on what we can control, and that was the next game. And so I think that’s kind of something Bob always instilled in us, that kind of, control what you can control and let go and don’t ponder on what happened in the past.
Alexi Lalas, ESPN 2009-2014: What people sometimes fail to realize is, we only had two points going into that third game. There was a real good chance we could have lost that game to Slovenia. But obviously, Michael scored, and we actually could have won it. But you had already seen a comeback-kid type of mentality that they had. But now you’re right back where we started in that you lose the game and we bomb out in the group stage. So from a drama and entertainment perspective, we were psyched to get this type of game and now we just needed them to perform.
Julie Foudy, ESPN 2006-present: I was at our ESPN studios in Johannesburg. You have hundreds of people in this room thinking, “Geez, we could be going home here.” And you obviously want the team to be successful, but you’re also thinking how much work has gone into a production like this and all the people that are over there, and you definitely want Team USA still in it, right? So, I think that’s always the interesting juxtaposition of, you are clearly so invested because it’s Team USA, but you’re also invested because you want the sport to grow and you realize, without USA in it, it’s a much different sell.
So the U.S. headed to Pretoria for its game against Algeria, needing a win to ensure its progression to the knockout rounds. The result of Slovenia vs. England, kicking off simultaneously in Port Elizabeth, would have a huge bearing on how the group would shake out, but the Americans controlled their destiny: win and they’re in.
Donovan: All you can ask for, for a team like ours, is going into the third game with a chance to advance, right? Like, when you go into the tournament, that’s your thought process. If you’re one of the top five or six teams in the world, you want to be qualified by the third game. But for us, we wanted to go into the third game with a chance to get through and we felt like we were playing the weakest opponent in our group, and they needed like some crazy results to happen. I think they didn’t really have a chance to advance so there was excitement, optimism, but we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. So I think we felt good heading into that game.
Howard: We had played in big games. We beat Spain at the Confederations Cup, best team in the world. We were up on Brazil in the final 2-0. OK, it didn’t go our way, but we had played in big games as a team. And so I think when it comes to World Cup, particularly if you’re with a U.S. team, all bets are off. So if you can put yourself in a position to go into that third game where your destiny is in your hands, that’s all the U.S. team could have asked for. Even if we had gotten a better result in the Slovenia game, we couldn’t just lose. It was all to play for and we felt confident we could do it.
Steve Cherundolo, USMNT defender 1999-2012: We still felt confident that we could make it out of the group, but I think we also felt the pressure was added on because people were expecting us to make it out of the group, and we felt the same. So we felt good, we felt confident, but we also knew that Algeria had some weapons as well and they were a good team. All the pressure was on us. We were no longer the underdogs, which is what normally we were.
DaMarcus Beasley, USMNT midfielder/defender 2001-2017: I know that everyone was more relaxed than what I thought the team would be. I wasn’t starting, so you kind of look around the locker room, see people’s mannerisms and their faces, and that’s one thing I do remember, is that the team didn’t seem rattled. Knowing that we needed to win, I think the team was confident in how we were playing throughout the tournament.
Bornstein: I remember the overall attitude of the team being very positive. We had previously played against teams like England, who we took a point from, we thought going into the Algeria game was a definite opportunity for us to prove something to the world.
The game began with Algeria coming out motivated, striking the crossbar in the early exchanges. But the U.S. recovered.
Dempsey had a goal controversially ruled out for offside, then hit the woodwork. Altidore missed a chance with the net gaping.
Herculez Gomez, USMNT forward 2007-2013: It was crazy because at first it was Algeria. One in hits the crossbar, we get saved. But then I was out supplying a lot of pressure. I had a shot at like 30 yards out that caught the keeper by surprise. I had another shot that I hit straight into the keeper that I should have done way better with. I had a cross shot that ended up on Clint’s foot that he scores and it’s a legitimate goal, that’s called offside. So I thought we were knocking.
Lalas: I was more impressed with Algeria than I was the other two teams in the group, to be quite honest with you. They were sons of b—-es. And I say that in a good way, they were badasses. I wasn’t prepared for how badass they were.
The missed chances begin to add up. As the count of wasted opportunities rises, the clock continues ticking away. Time is running out to get three points from the game, and with it, a place in the round of 16.
Jozy Altidore, USMNT forward 2007-present: I’ll never forget, there was a play where I think I’m in, and I go down the side and I cross the ball, and they sail it clear. Clint comes and opens his hips up to go far post, rings the post and it comes back, and I thought for sure he scores the rebound, and he put it over. It was a tough bounce, to be fair. It’s not an easy finish. At that point, I was thinking to myself, “Wow, is it going to happen? We may not get through.”
Beasley: It was, “Are we going to sneak one in like we usually do? Are we not? Is this going to be a game where we almost had it and we didn’t? And we lost it?” And we started thinking about, “Oh man, the game before, we should’ve won that game.” So you start thinking about what could’ve happened to not be in the situation that you’re in. If we would’ve scored that one goal [vs. Slovenia], we wouldn’t even be in this situation right now.
Gomez: I thought it was there for the taking. But as the game progressed, then this feeling of, “Oh man, this could be our last game” started settling in. And it’s a World Cup game, so everything’s magnified. Everybody’s on edge. It almost feels like these moments are bigger than they really are, because at the end, it’s just a game, right? Maybe nine out of 10 times you play that at a neutral site and we blow Algeria out, maybe. But in this game, it was close. They were in it. It could have been anybody’s game, any moment could’ve changed it. And it came down to the very end of the show.
Ian Darke, ESPN 2010-present: Did you honestly have a feeling that [the U.S.] were going to get that goal? Not really, not deep in your heart. And you’re thinking, “Well, this is quite a damp ending for the World Cup campaign,” because as the group stood going into the 91st minute, they were going out of the World Cup having played reasonably well and they could have gone out without losing a match.
Ley: [ESPN analyst Steve McManaman] and I were both mesmerized, and so I got up from behind the desk, and I am just walking around like my wife is in labor — in the old days, you’re not in the birthing room. I have never been so nervous in my life.
Donovan: There was this real professional understanding that in the last 10 or 15 minutes, the attacking players had to cheat and we had to roll the dice. Like, if we gave up a goal and lost 1-0 vs. tying 0-0, it didn’t matter, we’re out either way. So we had to take chances. And I think people don’t realize how stressful that is for a backline and Michael and Tim to deal with basically 5-on-5 at the back and 5-on-5 at the other end for 10 minutes or so. And they just held down the fort and allowed us to kind of get wave after wave and keep trying to break them down and find the goal to win it.
Altidore: When you’re down, you just have this sense of going until you reach the goal. Especially when you need a goal. That’s kind of where we were at. We were still just trying to get after it. We wouldn’t stop. We had time. We just kept going, we just tried to be relentless in our approach of trying to create that one more chance to win the game. Because I think up until that last seize of the ball, we believed. And I think that played a huge part.
And then it happened.
In the first minute of stoppage time, the U.S. conceded a golden opportunity, as Adlene Guedioura delivered a cross to the back post where two Algerian attackers were unmarked. Rafik Saifi got his head on the ball, but he could only direct it straight into Tim Howard’s hands.
The goalkeeper immediately pushed forward and threw the ball into the path of a sprinting Donovan, who was already at midfield. Donovan continued his run, playing the ball to Altidore wide right, who squared a cross for Dempsey, whose shot was courageously saved by Rais M’Bolhi. But, thankfully for the U.S., Donovan followed the play and buried the rebound.
Bornstein: I think you can take it back to their chance right before Tim catches the ball. It could have been a very dangerous opportunity. I mean, they get a cross in and the guy’s alone in the box and he gets a free header off. Luckily, it goes straight to Tim’s hands. I think all of us on the bench, you know, when you’re looking at them inside of our box and you’re thinking “No, no, no, just get it out, get it out.” Tim catches it and everyone kind of stands up because he immediately throws it just like a bomb, like a quarterback to a wide receiver. And leads him perfectly running full speed, [Donovan] takes a great touch forward. And we’re already inside their half within 30 milliseconds. I think everyone at that point, at least for me, we’re all like, “This is it.”
Howard: There had been a series of getting the ball, rolling it out, throw it out, getting us on the front foot and attacking. So that was kind of the mode I was in for much of that second half. And then Landon, as he does, it just seemed like that was a connection that I made 1,000 times. He opens up wide, he wants the ball, he gets on his horse and then me being able to find him in an open lane, it just kind of seemed second nature. So he was just flying and I felt in that perpetual motion stage. [Dempsey] was getting ready to get moving, everybody seemed to be flowing toward the goal.
Darke: I remember, and I’ve obviously seen it a few times since then, Howard having the ball and I remember I sort of injected an extra urgency into my voice at that point, thinking, “This is now or never, it’s got to all come from this.” And I remember Howard throwing a great throw almost at the halfway mark on the right to Donovan and suddenly the move was on. Suddenly that Algeria defense seemed to just maybe look a little bit disheveled and disorganized, maybe for the first time. And you just have a feeling something could happen here. And then it looked like the frustration was going to continue because Dempsey’s shot got blocked, and you thought, “Ah, that’s it.” But there was that moment, you saw it was dropping to Landon Donovan, and that he had a magnificent chance. The rest is history, as they say. Banged it in the net, and then the mass celebration by the corner flag and my somewhat hysterical commentary. I had no idea what I’d said at the time, but eventually I did get the impression that people quite liked it, which is always good for a commentator.
Altidore: Landon would always tell me, “When I get it, just take off running.” So I just took off when I saw him taking off, we all took off when we saw the opportunity. It was a good throw by Timmy. They caught us. We’re cheating a little bit to try to stay in a good spot, to stay forward, you don’t want to break down. And it just worked out to be the perfect counter, the perfect play where we caught them. And then, actually, when I look back at it, Landon’s on for me to give it back to him. If I disguise it well enough, I can cross it back to him and he can also tap it in. And it’s crazy, but I was not paying attention to that. I just saw Clint arriving, and I saw he was open, and there was a window. And when Clint missed that, I was thinking, “No, another big chance!” And then Landon was there at the doorstep, following the play, staying with it, and then the rest is history, as they say.
Foudy: And the thing about Landon’s goal too, which is so iconic to Landon, is one, he starts it with that counter. And then you see he shows himself to Jozy, so he kind of holds, but he doesn’t stay there. A player without that ability to see what’s being done, I’d have been like, “OK, he didn’t use me, I’m good.” He gets in a position where he knows he’s going to get some type of deflection. And, in the 91st minute, to sprint — which he did, pretty much three quarters of the length of that field — and then to carry that run through so he’s in a position to make it look easy, that was everything of what Landon was about. And people miss that, they just see him at that end position. There’s so many people who wouldn’t have gotten to that position. I’d have still been at the mid-strut, “Yeah, I’m good.”
Howard: Credit to both Landon and Clint. They’re always smelling it, they’re always on the front foot. Landon doesn’t just play the ball and stop, and think, “This is going to be in the back of the net.” He continues his run.
Altidore: Landon was doing his Landon thing, man. Popping up in the right place at the right time.
Edu: When I look back at that play, it’s commitment from a group of players who said, “This isn’t it for us.” When it happens, it’s like, “Cool, last-minute goal,” but when you watch it back, there were so many plays along the way, so many steps on the way when it could have gone wrong. Maybe Landon takes the play off, maybe Tim doesn’t see Landon, maybe Clint doesn’t make the run in the box, maybe Jozy doesn’t go wide to get the cross. There are so many steps along the way when it could have gone wrong, but it didn’t because it was a group of committed players.
After 91 minutes of nerves, of pressure building with each passing moment, Donovan’s goal triggered a release of emotion throughout the team. He found himself at the bottom of a dog pile in the corner flag consisting of most every player on the field and a good number of substitutes as well.
A handful of the team were so exhausted from the match that they couldn’t muster the energy to sprint to the attacking third and join in on celebrations, instead embracing one another at the center of midfield.
Donovan: I’ve been under a dog pile and it gives me serious anxiety, like real anxiety. I went to the corner, I saw Stu running down to meet me from the bench, and I’m like, with my momentum, there’s no way I wasn’t gonna slide because I was running so fast. But if you watch closely, right at the end, there is a minute where I’m like, “Oh f—,” because I realize what’s coming. I get like serious anxiety being there. Within about three seconds, and I don’t know if anyone heard it because everyone was yelling, I’m like, “Guys, get up! Get up! Get up! Please get up!” I’m just trying to get them off me because I didn’t want to hyperventilate.
Cherundolo: As soon as I saw the back of the net move, I looked over to the assistant referee. The flags did not go up, the goal is definitely counted. I looked for Tim and Jay and [Carlos Bocanegra] because it was too far to get up to Landon and at that point we were dead tired. I looked to anybody close to me who I could grab and hug. Because then we knew, “All right, this is it. This is our day. We did it.”
Darke: I don’t think that you can plan for that, and maybe you shouldn’t, either. Maybe I had a few words that I was going to say if the USA had gone out, you might prep that. But really something as dramatic, like a 10 on the Richter scale, an explosive moment like that, where one minute you’re out of the World Cup and the next millisecond, you’re top of the group, nobody can plan for that. So whatever came out, came out. It was instinctive and I’m a great believer that the best lines of commentary are exactly like that and happened in that way. I don’t know what made me say, “Go, go, USA!” I’m not American, as you well know. It’s just something that came out I thought that captured the mood.
Ley: I vividly remember it was like an out-of-body experience, like almost vibrating with excitement when the goal went in. It was like, “Oh, my God.” It’s like, “This is big. Don’t overstate it, don’t step on it.” I guess we didn’t screw it up. It was well received. As Ian has said so many times, he didn’t know where the “Go, go, USA!” came from. That’s a ringtone for some people still 10 years later. Ian doesn’t quite beat out my favorite John Lennon guitar licks.
John Harkes, ESPN 2006-2011: When it went in, I think I lost my headset and I couldn’t even communicate, so I couldn’t call anything. When I put it back on to speak, I just remember it cutting it out again so people couldn’t hear me making the commentary, and Ian had to speak again because my thing had gone out. We jumped on each other and it was all the camera guys around us. It was an amazing moment.
Andres Cantor, Futbol De Primera Radio: When I do the goal call before Bora [Milutinovic] and Marcelo [Balboa] speak, I was losing air. I never felt like I was going to faint, but I felt lightheaded because of all the euphoria and yelling and energy. And when I say, “Donovan the best player in U.S. history,” it doesn’t come off clean, it’s not what I wanted to say and I couldn’t find the words. At that moment I was on the verge of being breathless so I had to be quiet and recover.
Chris Kyak, fan at a watch party: At least half of us in there in that bar that day dropped to our knees [after Dempsey’s shot was saved] and weren’t even looking at the TV — I don’t even think I remember seeing the goal live. I remember seeing it in replay nonstop, minutes later. The people in [the bar] were probably on a pile-on. Beers were flying everywhere. I believe that was one of the first times the bar utilized plastic cups, knowing that something may have happened that day, whether it was good or bad.
Benny Feilhaber, USMNT 2007-2017: I think my favorite thing about that is how I had zero involvement in the entire build-up of that play and how much it meant to me. I think that’s a great representation of our team because there was no selfishness with that team, we wanted one thing and everyone wanted the same thing and it didn’t matter who was able to get the glory and you saw it in that moment.
Altidore: It’s like the things you say in your backyard when you’re playing around. Last minute of the game, for all the marbles! And to have that play come off and be able to have it and look back on it for the rest of our lives, it’s amazing. It’s a beautiful moment.
The celebrations following that game became legend unto their own. Former President Bill Clinton was at the match, making his way to the dressing room to join in the festivities. Former NFL star Reggie Bush was there, too.
Upon their return to the hotel, U.S. Soccer had arranged for players’ families to be there waiting, and organized a reception complete with singing and dancing, including the hotel staff.
Howard: President Clinton was in there with the Secret Service and at one point we were drinking beers and everybody’s excited and guys are taking their boots off. Carlos [Bocanegra] asked for everyone’s attention and asked President Clinton to come to the center, and he waxed poetically about what Bill Clinton meant to us and to be a part of our group and to Carlos personally, and he asked him if he’d have a beer with us. And [Clinton] looked over his shoulder, took off his jacket, rolled his sleeves up, popped open a beer. It was a pretty cool moment because not many people can say that they have that opportunity.
Beasley: It was chaos as soon as we got in [the dressing room]. We were jumping and yelling and cheering. Everybody was happy. We celebrated. And, obviously, when Clinton came in the locker room, it was great for him to meet everybody and congratulate everybody, so that was really cool. But yeah, we celebrated a little bit, because it wasn’t so much us celebrating because we went through, it was how we did it. The 90th minute, basically the last play of the game, we had a do-or-die situation for us to go through to the next round, and we did that. So, I’m sure if we would’ve won the game say 4-0, it would’ve been different.
Gomez: I know that we’re a very patriotic country any time it’s the U.S. vs. the rest of the world. The country gets behind it. But it’s one thing to be there, it’s another thing to get together at a conference room in a hotel and have the president of the United States call you on speaker phone. He’s talking to you, he’s naming Timmy by name, he’s naming Landon, he’s congratulating us. That’s a surreal thing. It’s surreal when Bill Clinton, an ex-president of the United States, comes into the locker room and he’s sharing a Budweiser with you. When Reggie Bush, probably at one of the heights of his career, is in the locker room and he shakes your hand and he tells you how much a fan he is, it’s just surreal moments.
David Ridenhour, fan at the game: It was just minutes of pandemonium after [the goal], and then as soon as they blew the final whistle, we stayed in the stadium for probably 20 or 25 minutes and watched the players go around the field. As we were leaving, there was a group of probably 1,000 U.S. fans that were still inside the stadium gates, and for 15 or 20 minutes we just sang and danced and partied.
Donovan: Maybe we did [overcelebrate] a little bit. It’s not like we were getting hammered that night. But it’s so difficult to advance out of your group at a World Cup, and when you put in so much time and effort, it’s hard not to celebrate. It really is. Life is short. You can’t blame people for wanting to celebrate in that moment and appreciate it because once that moment is over, it’s gone forever. I don’t blame guys, especially you’ve got people like the former president in there, you have to appreciate and enjoy the moment.
The celebrations crossed the Atlantic at a rapid pace. The stoppage-time win over Algeria became a “Where were you when …” moment in this country’s sporting history.
That was compounded by the rise of social media, and the emergence of videos from watch parties across the U.S. They were featured in ad campaigns, they were picked up by morning shows and on the tongues of late-night hosts.
Walker Zimmerman, USMNT defender 2017-present: I think I was at a soccer tournament and at a restaurant or bar in between games with my mom just watching the game. It was an out-of-body experience while watching that final sequence go down. Everyone is holding their breath, ball goes in and you erupt and you say, “I don’t know any of these people around me, but I’m enjoying it.”
Donovan: We went back to the hotel, we went to bed. In the morning when I went to breakfast, [press officer Michael] Kammarman actually said, “Hey, dude, you got to see this” and he showed me that same video, and it was like, “Holy s—.” It was really powerful for those of us who have been in this game for a long time and never seen people care about soccer like that. And I think quickly after that, it started to sink in because it was like interview here, interview there, this person’s calling me, that person’s calling me. People had jumped on the bandwagon really fast.
Michael Kammarman, USMNT press officer 2001-present: At a World Cup, it’s always hard when you’re inside the team bubble to have a real sense of what the response is like back in the United States. We already had a large contingent of U.S. media in South Africa, and certainly there were a ton of media requests for Landon after the game, but what really hit home were the videos showing the reactions of fans around the country. Those took on a life of their own, and it was one of the first times that had really happened in sports. Landon came into the Studio 90 office and watched that awesome compilation video, and that was a real eye-opener for us on how big this was back home; you could see in that game and the week that followed that the focus of people in the United States was on the U.S. men’s national team in a way it probably had never been before.
Bornstein: I was roommates with Benny Feilhaber and we had learned about [the videos] just because people were telling us, “Oh my God, did you guys see the reaction?” So we watched them, like, immediately afterward. I remember watching them almost right after, then again and again and again. It was so motivating, to be honest, to see how the American people, all the fans reacted inside bars, inside homes, wherever they were. It was like everyone was in the same moment at the same time. It’s something that I’ll be able to share with my kids and hopefully grandkids for years to come.
Foudy: We’re in Johannesburg, so we have no idea what’s happening back in America, but it gave you a sense of the magnitude of that moment, and what it meant to soccer in our culture, which is something we’ve always had to convince people is a part of our culture. As a soccer player, they always say, “No, it’s not us. People aren’t passionate about it, it’s not in our blood like it is in other countries.” And that moment, I was like maybe it is! Look at us!
Lalas: It’s a wonderful piece of Americana and a piece of our soccer history.
Zimmerman: Gregg [Berhalter]’s first camp in January two years ago, we were doing a roommate questionnaire where at the end of a meal you had to stand up and share the answers to questions about your roommate, and one of the questions was, “What was your most memorable U.S. soccer moment?” It seemed like half of the team alluded to this goal as the most exciting and pivotal moment that they had witnessed in U.S. soccer history.
Lalas: That’s the defining moment for a player who’s had plenty of them. That’s the one that people will remember. And when I say people, I mean people that aren’t even involved in soccer.
Inside the Premier League bubble: A surreal ghost town where you have to bring your own sandwiches
11:23 AM ETIan DarkeESPN.com writer
So what is it like inside the bubble in the Premier League’s new biosecure world? My first experience of it, at Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Arsenal on Saturday, felt like being airlifted onto the set of a sci-fi movie.To get anywhere near the smart Amex Stadium in the first place you needed to have filled in a fair bit of paperwork to indicate you had no symptoms of the coronavirus, had not recently arrived from abroad and were not in a vulnerable category. On arrival, I was instructed to stay in the car and wear a mask (the club had provided one in their blue club colours, complete with a Seagulls logo). Then you had to wind down the window for a temperature check. I was declared healthy and allowed to park.Normally on a match day you would be among thousands of fans as you arrived, and swap banter with fellow commentators and media people while having a cup of coffee or tea and a bite to eat in the media room. But apart from Brighton club staff in those blue masks, there was almost nobody around the deserted stadium perimeter and that media room was closed, like all the food outlets. You had to bring your own sandwiches and refreshment. It felt like a sad and surreal ghost town.
The stadiums are divided into zones, with the players and officials and essential medical staff kept apart from everyone else in the red zone. All these people are tested for coronavirus twice a week, with anyone found to be positive ordered to self-isolate. First in the Bundesliga and now the Premier League, that has ensured a safe environment for the leagues to restart.All media are in the amber zone and are not allowed anywhere near the pitch or tunnel areas. My microphone and headphones were wrapped in a sanitised bag for use exclusively by me. All the other wires and equipment had been scrubbed clean.Behind the masks, there was a chance for a socially distanced chat about possible lineups with fellow commentators Jonathan Pearce, of the BBC, and Jim Proudfoot, who was working on the broadcast of the game sent out by the Premier League to the whole world. Normally we would put the finishing touches to our match preparation in the media room, and go down to the tunnel area where there may be the chance of picking up a vital morsel of information about players and tactics. Now that is impossible. I had to go straight to the outdoor commentary position, so just as well it was a warm sunny day on the south coast of England.When Arsenal arrived, I was able to phone a contact in that red zone who informed me that Gunners manager Mikel Arteta was likely to make a few changes; Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe among those expected to play, and Rob Holding was sure to get a rare outing in defenceThe conversation turned to the tricky travel logistics for away teams in this strange new world. The Premier League have advised clubs to make their journeys on match days to avoid the risk of transmission during overnight stays in hotels. Arsenal had taken some flak for flying up for Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat at Manchester City as late as 5 p.m. for an 8 p.m. kick-off. They were accused of cutting it fine, and harming the players’ preparation.
But think about it. What are clubs supposed to do? Travel early and be left kicking their heels for hours in a faraway town? They cannot follow their normal routine of a sleep and prematch meal at a local hotel without breaking the guidelines. For this game, I learned that Arsenal had eaten at their training ground north of London in late morning and then made the 90-minute trip in two coaches to maintain social distancing on board. It is hardly ideal, but the away teams are facing a dilemma.And so to the game itself. The piped-in crowd noise may not be to everyone’s taste, but, for this commentator, at least it helps create a more authentic feel and buzz. Otherwise, no matter how good the game, it can feel like a reserve match with the players’ shouts echoing around a cavernous arena. TV broadcasters are giving viewers a choice, and most are opting to watch with the sound effects on.The clubs have done a fantastic job in dressing up the stadiums with attractive, colourful canvas covers for the empty seats, and Brighton have cardboard cutouts of 1,500 fans and famous ex-players sitting in their East Stand. They are doing their very best to make it feel like home, and managers are staging a lot of training sessions at the ground to get the players accustomed to the new environment.I think they need to tweak the drinks break idea. They are only necessary on a very hot day. It was farcical to see it in the pouring rain in Friday evening when Tottenham hosted Manchester United. The new five-substitute rule, meanwhile, is a nightmare for commentators. By the last 10 minutes, half the outfield players have changed. It is almost like a different game. I understand the increased risk of muscle injury after such limited preparation, but five subs makes it feel like a friendly.Clearly some teams are more rusty than refreshed. The restart is proving traumatic for Arsenal, with two defeats and a stack of injuries already. Brighton led the fight against staging matches at neutral grounds and it paid off with a dramatic late 2-1 win over the Gunners on home turf.Sad that their fans were not there to see it. As commentators we are privileged to be there to tell the story for those denied entry. It is good to have football back. And as weird as our “new normal” is inside the stadium bubble, it beats calling Bundesliga games off TV pictures from your office at home!