Instead, the plucky Americans finished at the top of their group thanks to an injury-time goal by captain Landon Donovan.
“The ball kind of found the man,” said Donovan when asked after the match about the heroic goal. “Time kind of stopped.”
IN PICTURES: Top 2010 World Cup controversies
If that’s what happens when time stops, US fans had to wonder why time didn’t stop earlier.
There were at least half a dozen times when they thought they would see a goal, only to watch the ball bounce off the post (as it did with a Clint Dempsey shot in the 56th minute), sail just wide, or settle into the sticky gloves of Algerian goalkeeper Raïs M'Bolhi.
In fact, US fans did see a goal in the 20th minute, but it was voided by the referee in a dubious offside call.
Until Donovan’s miracle goal in the 91st minute, fans, announcers, coaches, and even players were beginning to feel as if the refs were the only thing holding them back from advancing to the second round.
Aside from today’s highly debatable call, the US was clearly robbed of a goal – and a victory – in its game against Group C rivals, Slovenia. In one of this World Cup’s top controversies, Malian referee Koman Coulibaly nullified a late goal that would have won the game for the US. Constant replays of the goal reveal no foul and Coulibaly has not been made to say why the goal was voided.
Now, thankfully, none of that matters.
The US found a way to advance to the second round despite huge and important referee blunders.
Asked about Coulibaly’s bad call after today’s game, Donovan waxed patriotic.
“We embody what Americans are about,” he said. “We can whine about it or we can move on.”
And move on they will, to face whichever team finishes second in Group D.
“We’re not done yet,” said Donovan. “We believe.”
World Cup 101: