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This was the winning entry in the World Football Commentaries Writing Contest. Congratulations to Andrew.
by Andrew Helms
15 October 2009
The US overcame a two-goal deficit, horrendous finishing, playing down a man, and playing with heavy hearts with their teammate Charlie Davies in the hospital to tie a Costa Rica team desperate for the win that would qualify them for next summer’s World Cup. Jonathan Bornstein’s header from a Robbie Rogers corner kick in the 95th minute leveled the score 2-2 and secured first place in CONCACAF for the US after a grueling 16-month tournament. On the other side, it was heartbreak for Costa Rica; the tie pushed them into fourth place which means a two-game playoff with Uruguay, CONMEBOL’s fifth place team, will decide which nation will be the final team to qualify for South Africa.
It was a very strange match. It started as an open, attacking affair which saw both sides with chances in the first 30 minutes. Unfortunately for the US it was Costa Rica that was able to capitalize, building a two-goal lead after 24 minutes thanks to a three minute, world-class display by Bryan Ruiz. The first goal was a deadly combination of attacking verve and defensive timidity. Ruiz turned Oguchi Onyewu at the corner of the 18 and then made a beeline for the goal. Carlos Bocanegra was slow to react and Howard was soft coming off his line. ESPN commentator Alexi Lalas mentioned the idea that the timid display could be the result of the US playing to not get a red card. Whenever you play with the purpose to not do something, bad things happen. Just three minutes later the Costa Ricans played an impressive sequence of passes to undo the left side of the US defense before Ruiz hit a laser into the far upper V. The US was shell-shocked. Costa Rica had one foot in Cape Town. From there, however, the US took over and generated chance after chance. Before the goals, on 9 minutes, Conor Casey missed a 100% opportunity after a wonderful individual display by Jozy Altidore. Before half-time Altidore would miss a similar opportunity as would Landon Donovan.
The goals would come. Michael Bradley followed up a Donovan shot and awkwardly forced the ball into the ground and over the onrushing keeper; it took sheer determination to break the seal. Even after Onyewu went down with a torn patella tendon and the US was playing with 10 men, substitute Jose Francisco Torres dictated play and the US was relentless in their pursuit of the second goal. Finally, with seconds remaining Bornstein rose to meet a well-driven corner kick from Rogers and the celebrations began.
In the post-game celebration the team posed in front of a Charlie Davies banner. Captain Carlos Bocanegra thanked the fans for their support throughout qualification. With Trinidad and Tobago tying Mexico, the US finished first in CONCACAF. Again. Even with the excitement of the game and clinching first, soccer is still secondary. The US soccer community all wishes Davies a speedy recovery, and we pray for comfort for the family and friends of the passenger who died. Though the injuries are less severe, we all are also hoping Onyewu and Jay DeMerit are able to recover quickly and fully as well.
About the Author
Andrew Helms lives in Atlanta, Georgia and works for the American Cancer Society as a Director of Financial Reporting. When healthy, he plays soccer with the North Atlanta pick-up soccer group and tennis in the Ultimatetennis singles league and ALTA neighborhood doubles league.
His blog is located at: http://ahelms.com.