World Cup Part 20: USA v Algeria, 2010

STEPHEN BRANDT recalls the United States’ dramatic win over Algeria that sent them through to the last 16 to face old foe Ghana

Let me tell you a story about a nation, it’s team, and for one fleeting moment the chances of a lifetime. This is a nation short on results but high on expectations and disgust amongst fans. We aren’t talking about England, we are talking about one of its former colonies, the United States. This is the 2010 World Cup, and the United States are going to have a fun ride. This was the first time the country topped the group in 80 years. This is one of the United States sides that was full of players from outside of the domestic league. By 2018, most had retired, and had come back to play in the now thriving Major League Soccer in the USA.

In the 2010 World Cup, the USA was given a pretty decent group with England, Slovenia, and Algeria. It was the first time in a while that the USA wouldn’t have to face Ghana in the group stages. Ghana is the United States bogie team, and they’ve beaten the American side a couple times. The coach for the USA is the current manager of MLS Side Los Angeles FC in Bob Bradley. Bradley really didn’t have much of a style of play, while they could attack with Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, they were more well known for their tough defensive style of play. Bob Bradley set out a 4-4-2 formation: Howard, Bornstein, DeMerit, Bocanegra (captain), Cherundolo, Donovan, Edu, Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore, Gomez.

To win the group, all they needed was one goal against Algeria, and with England beating Slovenia 1-0 courtesy of ex-MLS player Jermain Defoe’s goal, America was in danger of crashing out in the group stages again. The game is known in America for Ian Darke’s call on Landon Donovan’s extra-time goal, but it wasn’t the only notable event to come out of the match. In fact is wasn’t the only “goal” to happen. Had VAR been around eight years back, this match would have turned out differently. We’ll get back to that.

The Americans were the best side in the match, despite Algeria trying to kick and bully the team. The Algerians were known for their tight defence, conceding only one goal in two games. As mentioned above, having VAR would have changed this match. In the 20th minute, Clint Dempsey put a legal ball in from close range only for the assistant referee to rule it offside. The play was started by Herc Gomez, who crossed the ball at the top of the box, after settling his own rebound, off a save from future Philadelphia Union Goalkeeper Rais M’Bohli. That attempt was from a steal in the midfield from Altidore, as he took the ball away from the Algerian defence before squaring the ball to Michael Bradley.

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Then in the 35th minute, all three of the attackers – Altidore, Donovan, and Dempsey –  looked to combine on the first goal, when Altidore hit Donovan on a cross field pass, which was then passed off to Dempsey in the opening of the centre of the penalty area. A sliding Algerian defender disrupted the play enough for M’Bohli to save it. Not two minutes later the Americans created another great chance, when Bradley found Donovan who lifted the ball over M’Bohli, but it was deflected to Atlidore who blasted it over the bar.

The winning goal came in extra time. Donovan would go on to become America’s all time leading scorer before being left out of the next World Cup for reasons we have yet to figure out. Tim Howard, who was still in his prime, saved a looping header, which he quickly turned into a fast pass to Donovan in the midfield. Landon ran forward, finding Altidore in the penalty area. Altidore, despite having a very physical match, had enough left in the tank to slip a pass to Dempsey who put a shot on goal, that hit off of M’Bohli in front of Donovan who with the great composure put the ball in the back of the net. The goal set off a memorable celebration that the entire playing staff of the American team dog piled at the left corner flag.

The win would send the American’s onto the knockout stage against old foe Ghana, and like normal Ghana would end up beating the Americans 2-1 to end the World Cup for the nation. This American side would stay together for the 2014 World Cup when they’d eventually beat Ghana 2-1. They’d eventually lose in the groups to Portugal 2-2 to finish out the World Cup.

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