Seriously, I haven't experienced such a brutal, demoralizing burglary in South Africa since I read Coatzee's Disgrace. Trailing 2-0 after a lifeless first half, the Americans battled back in the second 45 minutes with energy and verve. Landon Donovan's narrow-angled, top-net finish belongs with Maicon's lighning bolt among the goals of the tournament. And the Jozy Altidore-to-Michael Bradley equalizer at 82 minutes was surely the most dramatic goal of the competition so far -- the only late-match score that effectively saved one team's entire World Cup. (If you didn't see the match, btw, check out the Guardian's minute-by-minute report).
Then, with 82 minutes, Altidore (who was terrific today, and redeemed himself after a mediocre first match) was hauled down on the edge of the box. Landon Donovan whipped in a perfect Beckhamesque cross over the mob of bodies in front of goal, and Maurice Edu volleyed home for a beautiful go-ahead strike. 3-2 USA! A comeback for the ages. It should have been, but the referee decided -- for reasons that yet remain mysterious -- to call a foul on the Americans, nullifying the goal. There is evidence, on this very blog, that I'm not a rabid American partisan in soccer, but this was a dreadful, woeful decision.
In fact, replays showed that no one was offside, and, if anything, Bradley was being bear-hugged by an overly solicitous Slovenian in the middle of the box. After the game, Altidore was still screaming at the poor ref, who's name is Koman Coulibaly and who hails from Mali. I do feel a little bad for the guy, and I would never suggest that you desecrate his wikipedia page, or anything like that, but really, the US should have been 3-2 winners today.
It's sad that this should be the lead story coming out of this game, because even the turn from 0-2 to 2-2 showed more heroism than I thought Team USA (or the 2010 Cup) was capable of. Really, a fabulous match. And I'll be back with more group permutation analysis after the England-Algeria match, but the bottom line that the US is still in strong position to qualify. American fans should be hoping for a draw or an Algeria win against England, in which case they'll control their own destiny when they play the Algerians next Saturday (and remain in contention to win the group, which matters quite a bit, as I wrote this morning). Even if England wins, though, the US can guarantee a place in the second round with a 2-goal victory over the Algerians.