For the moment, Landon Donovan and the U.S. soccer team have helped America forget its troubles.
Immediately after the game, Donovan was asked about horrific calls by FIFA referees that nearly cost the U.S. team its chances at advancing out of the first round. The star put a stake in the ground for the American identity.
“You know what? Like I said last week, we embody what Americans are about,” Donovan said. “We can moan about it or we can get on with it, and we kept going. We believe, man. We’re alive.”
Donovan’s words resonated like a pep speech for a nation stumbling from economic recession and facing possibly years of sustained stagnation and high joblessness, and for the first time in decades quite certain that it no longer sits alone at the top of the global pecking order.
After the game, former President Bill Clinton visited the U.S. team in the locker room, having watching the historic game from the stands of Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa.
“As someone who cares about our country, you made me proud to be an American,” Clinton told the team.
President Obama called the team Thursday afternoon, in between getting burgers with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose team did not even make the World Cup, and facing the press in a joint news conference at the White House.
“The President congratulated them on their extraordinary victory and told them that while he was meeting with General Petraeus in the Oval Office, he could hear the rest of the West Wing erupt when Landon Donovan scored the game winner,” the White House said, in an official readout of the call.
“The President then congratulated Donovan on the game-winning goal, asked Tim Howard how his ribs were feeling and asked Clint Dempsey how his lip was doing. The President wished the team good luck on Saturday and made sure they knew that the entire country was cheering them on.”
Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” gushed over Donovan during an interview by remote satellite link Thursday morning.
“After for years hearing people say why they hate America, it’s great to have a team out there that embodies everything that the world’s looked to us for for centuries,” Scarborough said.
Scarborough described watching the game with others at a Tribeca bar, and said that until Donovan scored in the waning moments, “for the first time since I don’t know when, maybe since I was in high school, I was literally getting sick watching a sporting event. “
“When you scored that goal,” he said, “millions of Americans [were] exploding in just absolute pandemonium.”
“We’re a team that American can be proud of,” Donovan said.