In the second round of Group C action, the Americans were down 2-0 to the underdog Slovenians, the smallest country by population in the tournament. In the locker room at halftime, the Irish American Landon Donovan standing at a diminutive 5’8”, appealed to his teammates to stay off the pitch if they felt they could not win. Energized and inspired by Donovan’s “Win it for the Gipper” speech, the squad returned to the field and took over the match, scoring two goals to tie the Slovenians 2-2 in the second half. The LA Galaxy Star led by example by scoring a goal.
A leader for this 2010 World Cup was born.
US coach Bob Bradley has recognized this quality in the Irish American. "There is a special feeling when you play on a team and you know people are really counting on you, when your character, your personality, is at the core of how that team does."
The Irish American came to the rescue again in a hard fought, must win match against the Algeria this week. The African team stifled and frustrated the US attack the whole game. In stoppage time, Donovan scored a goal to launch the Americans into the Knock Out round as the Group C winner. This game was momentous for The Americans who won a third game in a World Cup for the first time ever and have only advanced to the next round in five of seven cups.
Donovan has more than atoned for the team’s lackluster performance in the 2006 cup. That year the US squad never made it out in the first round in spite of gaining first round leads on each opponent. Donovan was blamed for the squad’s shortcomings as the face of American soccer. On top of this hardship he went through a very public divorce from actress/model Bianca Kajlich.
The next challenge to the squad is the knockout round match against Ghana to be played June 26th. Landon will be expected to lead the Americans to a spot in the quarterfinals. A responsibility The Irish American is ready and able to accept and relish. “We embody what Americans are about,” said Donovan. “We can moan about it or we can get on with…and we believe.”