Donovan’s stoppage-time goal puts Americans into knockout round (plus US player ratings)

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For 90 minutes, it looked like it was just not meant to be for the US national team in its must-win World Cup match against Algeria. Another slow start by the Yanks saw the Desert Foxes’ Rafik Djebbour hit the crossbar after six minutes, and although the Americans began to dominate the match, they could not find their much needed goal- or at least, a goal that would count.

The US once again had a goal disallowed, this time with Clint Dempsey’s tidy finish of a Herculez Gomez cross called offside in the 20th minute (the replays show Dempsey was even with the last defender). The US continued to push forward, but spurned chance after chance to score the winner. As the clock hit 90 minutes, the Americans were on the edge of a disastrous exit from South Africa.

Yet they will be moving on after winning their group, and they can thank the man who invented additional time for that. In the 91st minute, Tim Howard saved a header from Rafik Saifi (one of three Rafiks on the Algeria squad, if you were wondering) and launched a counter-attack, picking out Landon Donovan on the other end of the pitch. Donovan strode forward and pushed the ball out right to Jozy Altidore, who sent a cross back through the box to Dempsey. Dempsey saw his finish parried by Algerian keeper Rais M’Bolhi, but the rebound went right to Donovan, who coolly stroked home the winner and set off a raucous American celebration.

USA ratings for the match are below (ratings for the entire group stage will be posted later). The team will now take on the second place team from Group D, to be decided in the next few hours. [Update: the US will face Ghana on Saturday]

player ratings (out of 10):

GK Tim Howard: 8. Was not called upon for any spectacular saves, but did what he needed to do in keeping his first clean sheet of the tournament. Started the move that led to the US goal with a great long distribution after a save.

RB Steve Cherundolo: 8.5. Arguably the best player for the US today and through the group stage, ‘Dolo put in another great shift today. Composed defending and created chances going forward.

CB Jay Demerit: 7.5. A few shaky moments led to a couple chances for the Algerians, but overall another good performance from the battling former UIC Flame.

CB Carlos Bocanegra: 7.5. The captain and former Fire player hardly put in a wrong foot after switching from left back to center back. A perfectly-timed flying clearance of a dangerous 63rd minute cross was crucial.

LB Jonathan Bornstein: 6. Many US fans have come to expect the worst when seeing Bornstein in the defense, but the left back was not a disaster today. He did not look comfortable on the ball, but defended well enough.

RM Landon Donovan: 7.5. Let’s be clear- Donovan was not nearly at his best today, and his performance could even be called disappointing considering the stakes. He did not take over the match like the US needed. But there’s a reason why he’s the squad’s talisman, and he came through with perhaps the most important- and dramatic- goal of his career.

CM Maurice Edu: 7. Much better than his match against Slovenia- Edu looked much more composed, and although his passing was still not top-notch, he did a good job of winning the ball and shielding the back four.

CM Michael Bradley: 8. Another tireless effort from Junior. Drove the ball forward well and was at the center of some of the Yanks’ best attacking moves. Quickly establishing himself as integral to the team’s success.

LM Clint Dempsey: 7.5. An eventful match for Deuce- hitting the post and missing an open goal on the follow-up, having a good goal ruled offside, getting punched in the face: all in a day’s work. Deserves credit for getting in positions to score, and his run and shot led to Donovan’s rebound game-winner.

F Herculez Gomez: 6.5. Probably should have scored (lacked some finishing composure) and should have had an assist (he crossed on Dempsey’s disallowed goal). Not bad, but the US needed a bit more of a spark from the second forward spot.

F Jozy Altidore: 8. Still has yet to score in this World Cup, but he again proved why he is the class of the American forward stock. Held the ball up well, but more importantly he ran at the Algerian defense. Shot over the net from close range in the 37th minute, but made up for it with a great ball to Dempsey on the US goal

Subs:

M Benny Feilhaber: 7.5. Started a bit slowly after coming on at halftime, but soon got comfortable and started using his vision and touch to spread the ball around beautifully. Played all over the midfield and looked composed at each spot.

F Edson Buddle: 6. Thrown on for Edu in the 64th minute, Buddle was certainly active. Had a few poor touches, though, and perhaps could have done a better job with a close-range header that he hit right at M’Bolhi.

LB: DaMarcus Beasley: 6. It’s tough to give the former Fire man a grade, as the three-time World Cup Vet only played for ten minutes, and Algeria was not doing a whole lot of attacking. Nevertheless, the natural-midfielder did not look out of place at left back, and could see more minutes there.

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