June 23, 2010

South Africa to Santa Barbara Day 13: Extra Time is the Best Time for U.S.

Landon Donovan pocketed the game's only goal in extra time Wednesday to propel the U.S. into the round of 16.


Follow the 2010 World Cup with the UCSB men's and women's soccer programs all tournament long on UCSBgauchos.com. "South Africa to Santa Barbara: The Cup is Coming" will provide daily commentary on the day's biggest storylines, featuring video interviews with Gaucho soccer players and head coaches Tim Vom Steeg and Paul Stumpf.

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A collective cheer was followed with a collective sigh of relief. That was the feeling around the nation as the United States secured a berth in the final round of 16 with a goal that wouldn't have even counted in college soccer.

Playing in extra time - of which there is none at the NCAA level - Landon Donovan followed up a rebound with the decisive goal that led to a euphoric celebration and helped the U.S. avoid the indignation of failing to make it out of their group.

Instead, the U.S. captured its first group title since the original World Cup in 1930, not to mention their first World Cup match victory in eight years.

"I think that just speaks now to where the United States is in the world as far as being in the conversation among the top 20 teams in the world now," UCSB head women's soccer coach Paul Stumpf said. "It speaks so well for soccer in America."

The Yanks victory against the Desert Foxes may be one of the greatest late-game moments in the history of American soccer. As ESPN continued to show the England-Slovenia score on the screen and the impending result, which would have sent the U.S. home, Donovan quickly turned hand-wringing into hand-clapping.

"This team embodies what the American spirit is about," Donovan told reporters after the match. "We had a goal disallowed the other night, We had another good goal disallowed tonight. But we just keep going. And I think that's what people admire so much about Americans. And I'm damn proud."

Donovan's goal was his fourth World Cup goal in South Africa and his 44th international goal to date, tying him with Bert Patenaude as the all-time American leader.

Donovan's goal 45 seconds into injury time proved to be the saving grace America needed. A headfirst belly flop into the corner flag by Donovan exemplified the joy and pride felt by Americans across the globe.

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