Editor's note: Cobi Jones is the all-time leader in appearances (164) for the U.S. men's national team and a three-time ('94, '98, '02) World Cup participant. He was a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy from 1996 to 2007 and is now an assistant coach for the club. He will offer his thoughts before and after every U.S. game.
It was a storybook finish.
You really couldn't ask for anything more than that last five or six minutes of the U.S.-Algeria match, which the U.S. won, 1-0, to advance to the round of 16 at the World Cup in South Africa.
For Landon Donovan to finish it off the way he did was just great.
This has to be one of the top moments in U.S. soccer history. The timing of it makes it one of those things that will resonate for a long time. I think it will transcend not only soccer, but it will be a part of our sporting mystique. You'll see this highlight played around the clock and people will be talking about it for quite some time.
During the middle of the game, I found myself thinking, "What's it going to take for us to put the ball in the back of the net?" And then as the time ticks by, you start thinking, "Wow, this is going to be really unfortunate if we don't get a win." We had created so many great opportunities by a variety of different players that it would have been a shame if we didn't get the goal and were knocked out.
I was watching both the U.S.-Algeria game and the England-Slovenia game, and when I saw England went up 1-0, it became one of those situations where you start hoping for someone to step up for the U.S. and put one in the back of the net.
At the beginning of the U.S. game, I was thinking that maybe it was going to go our way because we gave up that one chance -- again early in the game -- but luckily, this time, the ball goes off the crossbar. When that happened, I was saying to the group of people I was watching the game with that this could be our opportunity to finally win. In the first few games, that early shot goes into the back of the net, so when it didn't it hopefully was a sign that our luck was changing a little bit.
Had the U.S. not won Wednesday, it would have been a tough outcome, but I don't think it would have hurt the soccer movement in this country. I don't think anything is going to stop the soccer movement. It's something that is continuously growing based on all the interest in the World Cup and the fact that people are asking about it. The U.S.-Algeria result pushes us forward and helps continue the movement at a faster pace because now you're getting even more people interested in the sport.
At the same, although this was a fabulous result, I also don't want to get overly excited. Right now, everyone is in the middle of the hype, but the player side of me, and now the coach side, is saying, "We did what we were supposed to do." The U.S. was supposed to get through to the next round after these three games. To be honest, we made it a little harder on ourselves, and the referees made it a little harder on us too.
But ultimately we did what we were supposed to do and we are where we're supposed to be. Now is the time when the U.S. needs to start doing the things to help make a name for itself and make the public excited for what the team is accomplishing. It's time to create the aura and the drama of U.S. soccer by competing at this next level, doing well and moving beyond these games to something even greater.
As far as Landon scoring the winning goal, it was perfect. You have the current face of American soccer leading the team in the second half against Slovenia and then getting the goal in the dying minutes of this game -- a win or go home situation. It's very fitting. He has worked long and hard, as he said, over the past four years to reach this moment. And for him to come through, it couldn't have been written better.
On the field, I was a little bit surprised Oguchi Onyewu did not start on defense. It wasn't one of the moves I had considered. But it was an interesting choice because it did give the U.S. a little bit more speed with Carlos Bocanegra in the back and Jonathan Bornstein on the left.
I imagine that coach Bob Bradley felt his team would be the one controlling the flow of the game on offense and perhaps there wasn't a need for someone so big like Onyewu in the back. I thought Jay DeMerit did a great job on defense for the most part. He started a little slow with that early play but after that he was one of the top players on the field.
Edson Buddle did a very good job when he came in. I would've liked to have seen him come in sooner because it's very difficult to come into a World Cup game late and adjust to the pace and expect to have an impact.
But when he did get his chance, he did a great job of holding the ball, getting good passes to others, including one to Benny Feilhaber that almost set up a goal, and then he had that header off a cross that almost turned into a goal. A foot to either side, and that ball goes into the back of the net.
That's the type of player that Edson is. If he gets in there, he'll usually find a way to make something happen. Hopefully he did well for himself in Bob's eyes and has created the opportunity to get some more time moving forward.
Jozy Altidore also took his game up another level beyond what he did in the first two games. He was able to hold the ball well and do a job getting behind defenders and making himself dangerous. He's going to have to do that again regardless of who the U.S. plays next.
During the game itself, I was surprised with the way Algeria played at the end especially. It seemed as if the Algerians were content with a draw. They were playing a little more defensive than I would've expected from a team that knew it needed a significant victory to have any chance to advance. The feeling I got was that Algeria was in the mode of simply wanting to eliminate the U.S. by playing the spoiler role and being happy with that. At least that's the way it looked from the outside as a U.S. fan observer.
Moving forward, I don't think it matters who the U.S. plays next. The players have got to be brimming with confidence. If it's Ghana or Germany that would be good because they could serve as revenge games in a way, since Ghana knocked the U.S. out in 2006 and Germany did the same in 2002. Anyone who was there will remember these moments and I'm sure it will be talked about and possibly used as a form of motivation to try and pump up the guys even more.
For the U.S., right now it's about enjoying this moment but also preparing quickly. This is a time when the coaches and the physical training staff have to do a good job because the turnaround time for the next game on Saturday is so short. There are only two full days of recovery and there's not a whole lot you can do in that time. You have to see who's healthy and fit and who can give you quality minutes in the next game.