There’s more than one reason to be emotional when rewatching Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria in the 2010 FIFA World Cup during a global pandemic.
The goal was a last gasp winner that sent the Yanks through to the knockout round and aside from finally beating Ghana in 2014 was maybe the last truly magical thing that happened in a game involving the USMNT.
In the moment, it felt like the U.S. were on their way to a disappointing exit when Tim Howard’s long throw sparked a counter attack that ended with Donovan cleaning up a rebound from Clint Dempsey’s initial shot and putting it into the back of the net to win not only the game but put the U.S. into the knockouts as group winners.
Watching it back now, I still get goosebumps seeing the play unfold and by the time Ian Darke makes his “Go, go USA!” call I’m welling up with tears. In an instant, all the angst about Wondo missing the sitter against Belgium, the nightmare in Trinidad & Tobago and the apathy that has plagued the team ever since fades away and it feels good to be a USMNT fan again.
Not even the reminder that Rais M’Bohli — the former Philadelphia Union goalkeeper whose acquisition is possibly the most misguided player acquisition in team history — was in net for Algeria that night can take away from how special this moment was.
Darke recently talked about his goal call as something, perhaps unsurprisingly, that just kind of came out and that he wishes hadn’t in an interview with ESPN FC. His reaction makes sense from a professionalism standpoint but him not really caring for the call almost makes it even better in some ways because it shows how powerful that moment was that it even turned Darke into an unapologetic fanboy for three seconds.
It’s nearly impossible now to truly relive the euphoria of that moment without Darke’s call.
It’s also pretty much required viewing to also rewatch the video of reactions from watch parties to the goal, which for me had the unfortunate side effect of reality setting in more quickly and harder than I was anticipating.
While my time and attention in soccer has shifted mostly away from the U.S. team to the Union now, the camaraderie and unabashed joy present in those videos — and in my brother’s apartment in Elkins Park where I was watching it — feels like a time capsule not only to 10 years ago but to a different time just a few months ago before soccer and so much else was shuttered.
It’s hard not to think about the toll COVID-19 has had on human life, on those working on the front lines, on families separated from loved ones and on so many Americans struggling to get by. Things that make us cry because of how unimaginably hard and heart-wrenchingly sad they are.
At the same time, it’s also hard not to think about what we soccer fans are missing out on, the community that comes from supporting a soccer team together and the moments like Donovan’s unforgettable winner that make being a supporter somehow feel worth it in the long run. The anger and disappointment setting in as the stoppage time ticked away replaced in an instant by a reminder that there was reason to have hope, after all. .
It will be 10 years on June 23 since Donovan found that winner so social media will be filled up again in a few weeks with recollections and where were you thens. I’m sure I’ll watch the video of the goal a couple more times then too, tears welling up in my eyes hearing Darke’s unscripted “Go, go USA” ringing once more in my ears and resonating all over again in my heart.
Go, go USA, indeed.