For the 20th ESPY Awards, ESPN has selected the 20 greatest sports moments of the last 20 years. Landon Donovan's World Cup goal against Algeria is No. 20. Donovan recently spoke with ESPN.com about that goal, the state of U.S. soccer and the ESPY Awards.
Can you describe what you were feeling when you scored the game-winning goal in the 2010 World Cup against Algeria?
I think to properly describe it, you have to put it in the context of the game. During the game, we had a number of opportunities to score where we were probably a little unlucky, hitting the post and things like that. Algeria also had a couple chances early in the game to score, so there was a sort of roller coaster throughout the game and wave of emotions throughout the game.
At the end of the game, when you need a goal like that, your team really pushes and really takes some chances, and the offensive players cheat a little. You put a lot of pressure on your defenders to be able to hold the fort when you go forward. Our guys did a really good job of that, so we had the opportunity to press forward and try to get a goal.
The actual play itself came from a chance that Algeria had. Tim Howard made a save and caught the ball, and I was cheating a little bit up the field in the hopes that we would get the ball and go the other way. Tim threw it out to me, I took a touch, Jozy Altidore made a good run wide, we put it in his path and he played a really good ball to Clint Dempsey, who doesn't get enough credit for what he did on the goal, going in hard and making the defender and the goalkeeper make a play. Then it just popped out to me, and I just did what was natural from there.
Where would you rank that goal in your soccer career?
As far as a moment goes, there's no bigger moment in my career, because of the magnitude and what it meant for us, the drama of it. It certainly wasn't the most difficult or the best goal I've scored, but as far as the importance goes, none's been more important.
You've represented the U.S. in three World Cups. What does it mean to you to play for your country on the international stage?
For us, it's our main goal as a soccer player growing up, to play in a World Cup. Particularly when I was young, cable television or satellite television certainly didn't look the way it does today, so we had no concept of what the rest of the world was doing in soccer. All we knew was every four years this great event would come on, so that was my dream, to play in this event.
So that in itself makes it special, but more than that, we travel around the states -- which I do in Major League Soccer -- and you get a lot of people who support their hometown teams, but when you play in an event like the World Cup, everybody drops their allegiances to their state or their city, and they just come together as a country and root for one team. That's the beauty of it. I get comments all the time, "I hate you when you play for L.A., but when you play for the national team, I love you." That's the beauty of playing in the World Cup.
How much has the fan support in MLS changed in your career from when you started with San Jose to now?
It's night and day. Not only the sheer numbers -- the amount of people who are showing up -- but the type of people and the knowledge of the people who are showing up. Now, people are growing up having watched it for a generation, so they actually know the game. They're savvy, and they're having children now who learn the game from two, three, four, five years old, as opposed to having to learn the game when you're 25. It's starting to become a thing where it's in people's conscious stream of thought now, and it's also a thing where it's in people's blood because kids are growing up with it now.
Looking forward, what does Team USA have to do to have success in Brazil in 2014?
World Cups are tricky. In '06 we were quote-unquote "a failure," but we were still a little bit of a better performance in our third game away from advancing and being a success. There's a lot of things that have to happen for things to go well. Our team is good enough now that the expectation is to get out of our group. In the past, being at the World Cup was an honor itself, but now we're at the point where that's a realistic expectation. When we get to that point, you kind of reshuffle the deck and see who you're playing and where you're at. Last time, we probably should have beat Ghana. I think that was a team we all thought we should have beat. If we can get to the World Cup, A, and, B, advance out of our group, I think we're doing well, and I think we take our best shot from there.
You've won six ESPY awards (Best Male Soccer Player: 2002; Best MLS Player: 2006-07, 2009-11). Is there any one that stands out to you?
There's two. The one the year of the Algeria goal was special for obvious reasons, but also the year before, when we went to the Confederations Cup in South Africa and got to the final against Brazil. That was special too, because that was the beginning of knowing that we really had the team or the type of team that could do something special. We'd beaten a Spanish team that hadn't lost in 35 or 36 games to get to the final, and we were two up against Brazil before losing. It was cool to be recognized in that way, and we hope going forward that it continues the same way.