I wasprimed to write about getting out and seeing more of South Africa, aside fromsoccer games and the Johannesburg suburbs. Then Landon Donovan scored hisstop page-time winner against Algeria that rescued the hopes and dreams of U.S.fans.
It’salready been called the biggest goal in U.S. soccer history. I wasn’t there forit in person but, like all the other American fans watching around the world, Iwas there and about 50 miles from the epicenter in spirit.
Yet afterall those blown and robbed chances from the second half of the Sloveniagame through the 90 minutes of regulation play a week ago, I was nearlyconvinced the U.S. was moments away from an early exit.
I’m prettysure the bad vibes began with the disallowed Maurice Edu goal several daysearlier, but the rooting interests of our four-man crew had taken a beatinguntil Wednesday afternoon. Germany, down to 10 men, lost to Serbia. France wasin shambles. Greece played themselves back into contention, but ended up losingout on the second round. Spain’s fight is brighter now, but it still could goawry.
At anyrate, we decided to try a new place Radium Beer Hall (perhaps familiar toprevious Johannesburg visitors) to watch the all-important U.S.A.-Algeriagame before speeding off to Soccer City with tickets to that night’sGermany-Ghana clash.
The Radium,established nearly 100 years ago, is supposedly the oldest continuouslyoperating bar in Joburg, and a place we had put off visiting for several days.
At thetime, we thought we may go back for the rest of our important games, until ourluck runs out witch it eventually did, with an extra-time U.S. loss to Ghanain the second round.
The SouthAfrican fans around us were all rooting for the red, white and blue right therewith us. Each missed opportunity the disallowed Dempsey goal, Dempsey’s shotoff the post, basically any botched chance was sarcastically rued to our faceby the gray-haired South African man in the motorcycle jacket sitting besideus. Each raspy laugh and sly comment doubled the pressure that was mountingthroughout the game.
Then, alittle more than a minute past the 90, Tim Howard made the save. He made thepass up the field. Donovan broke, passed. Altidore crossed. Dempsey just gotenough of a touch to cause the ricochet that led to the pan-Atlanticcelebration and Saturday’s Round-of-16 date with Ghana. The Radium erupted.
Almostimmediately, we resolved to find a way to make it to Royal Bafokeng Stadium inRustenburg on Saturday night. A little more than two hours from Joburg, it wasimmediately in our wheelhouse for an unplanned bout of rabid patriotism. Thanksto the gods of scalping, we were in the fifth row during the U.S.-Ghana game,behind the corner flag to the far right of the main mid-field camera.
And my first, live U.S. game couldn’t come at a bettertime. Like the rest of you, I have to say, “Thank you, Landon.”