Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Donovan saves Dempsey from being goat extraordinaire

Shot after shot.  Opportunity after opportunity.  Clint Dempsey must have felt like he had a lead boot on his striking foot.  After his goal was disallowed in the 21st minute due to a controversial offsides call, which in itself would have Dempsey draw the ire of fans if he had actually been offsides (it was close) -- Dempsey had golden opportunities in the 42nd minute, in the 57th minute twice, and in the 90+1 minute.  All of his shots either missed goals by mere centimeters and were saved, and his opportunity in stoppage time, deflected by Algerian goalie Rais M'Bolhi, ended up on the right boot of Landon Donovan for the factoring tally.

Dempsey found space many times, and for some reason the U.S.'s only other player to score goals in two separate World Cup appearances could not deliver.  His touch shot that struck the right post in minute 57 followed by his firing his own rebound wide and high of an open net had announcer Ian Darke proclaim the moment as sheer agony.  And for Dempsey it had to have been, for the 27 year-old mid-fielder knows that in the upcoming elimination rounds, bones like that have to be buried if the U.S. is going to move deeper.

Perhaps the match's unsung hero was replacement Benny Feilhaber, who entered the game at halftime, replacing Hercules Gomez, and immediately made his impact felt.  Besides distributing the ball well, Feilhaber created his own opportunity down the right wing with move in on goal, only to have his shot deflect of M'Bolhi's left leg as the Algerian goalkeeper dove to stop what he anticipated was a cross. 

Rest assured, Landon Donovan is not only the hero of this country today, but of Clint Dempsey as well.  For as many great games as Dempsey has had for the U.S., had this one ended up as it seemed destined to, in a draw, this was probably one he'd want to forget.