The United States played Costa Rica last night in what proved to be the US men's national team's first competitive match so far in the Gold Cup. And for 82 minutes, the game sucked. The Americans only needed a draw to finish first in the group, and for much of the match, they were content to dominate possession, passing the ball around aimlessly at times, while the Costa Ricans sat back in the shadow of their own goal.
It looked to end a bore draw until the 82nd minute, when Costa Rica pressed the attack and won a corner. Celso Borges swung in a ball to the back post, and Costa Rican defender Carlos Johnson skied above everyone to power a head into the top corner.
The header looked like a goal. It was supposed to be a goal. But for all our flaws as a soccer nation—and they are legion—we produce a whole, whole lot of good goalkeepers. And so Sean Johnson, US Soccer's fourth- or fifth-best keeper who's almost definitely not going to next year's World Cup, was agile enough to get his fingertips on the shot and deflect it off the post and into the air.
This is where it got fun. After a scramble, American substitute Joe Corona headed the ball out of immediate danger, pushed out of the box, and then recovered the ball again after a Costa Rican botched a pass. He immediately played a looping pass to Landon Donovan, who'd drifted out to the right wing, where there were acres of space. Donovan played a perfect first-time pass between the Costa Rican sweeper and a defender in pursuit of the play to substitute Brek Shea, who shifted the ball to his left and finished the counter attack.
This was a beautiful goal. If you're a fan of soccer, specifically American soccer, this goal should make you smile. As we've written before, US Soccer's strongest and most dangerous when countering. And this is because for all their flaws, they have horses on their team, and their best athletes can run in a straight line faster than most other countries' best athletes.