CBSSports.com is counting down the Top 10 storylines of 2010 in sports, culminating with the No. 1 story, which will be revealed on Dec. 30.
It had been a typical World Cup game for the United States: bad luck, bad calls, and again, straddling the precipice.
The U.S. fought to a scoreless tie against Algeria and as the 90-plus minutes of wild soccer was coming to a raucous close, so too, it seemed, was the Americans' tournament. One shot by the U.S. hit the right post. The goalkeeper for Algeria frustrated the U.S. by eating or deflecting most of their attempts and there was, again, an apparent American goal erased by game officials.
The U.S. looked done.
Then, there was Landon Donovan.
With President Bill Clinton watching -- hell, with many around the globe watching -- Donovan scored a goal with a kick from just seven yards away in the first minute of added time. It was only seven yards but the ball actually traveled across time and space and shattered, temporarily at least, a hardened level of cynicism many Americans possessed toward soccer.
Donovan's goal emerged as an entrancing moment in what was an entrancing American run.
Three times in four games the U.S. relinquished the first goal, so the team spent much of its time fighting from behind (the U.S. never led in regulation in any of its four games). This led to some of the more exciting soccer in this country's history -- culminating in that Donovan goal.
Because of Donovan the U.S. enjoyed arguably its most visible run ever. The U.S. did reach the World Cup semifinals in 1930 and the quarterfinals in 2002, so American soccer has gone further, but in the age of social media what the U.S. did in 2010 might be the most important. Twitter and Facebook swelled with posts of pride in U.S. soccer.
The proclamations about soccer's imminent rise in the United States have been numerous and steady. We've been hearing for decades soccer would take a foothold in the American sports consciousness and the same lofty chatter occurred after Donovan's goal.
The growth hasn't happened, but in reality that doesn't matter. The moment was important and it became both enjoyable and historic.
It could be argued that the U.S. failing to win the World Cup diminishes the importance of Donovan's goal.
The Americans didn't win but the march deep into the Cup's brackets was still satisfying. The earlier match between the U.S. and England drew 12.9 million viewers, according to Nielson. Those numbers were comparable to the NBA Finals. As the U.S. made an unlikely run, we all watched, and the numbers grew.
Will soccer ever catch on here? Probably not, but who cares? We can simply enjoy Donovan. We can enjoy that moment.