Right at this very moment, the American soccer world is ready to canonize Landon Donovan. He scored the goal that put the United States in the knockout rounds, ending ninety-one minutes of protracted agony. Given the chance off a rebound, he didn't miss.
It doesn't matter if Donovan did his best Casper impression for some of the match. It doesn't matter that he missed earlier chances or failed to impose himself on a game that needed him at his best. It doesn't matter what he did for ninety-plus minutes, because what he did in the ninety-first was the most important thing he did all day.
This is soccer; funny to a fault, eliciting manic laughter in fans when thing just simply won't go right. Crossbars, referees, hell, the ball itself maybe - all against us, all seemingly intent on breaking our hearts just for fun. Forget man-made conspiracy, this was beginning to feel like something supernatural.
So Donovan's rebound goal, a simple shot that took nothing more than making sure it didn't go wide, is just about as sweet as it could possibly be. For the whole of the match the Americans squeezed and squeezed with nothing to show for it; just a small collection of seconds away from the end, the bloody thing finally decided to yield a drop of joy. Donovan did it, Donovan is a god.
For now, naturally. If Donovan doesn't show up on Saturday or makes some horrendous mistake, he'll be quickly demoted to mere mortal once again. Perhaps even much-criticized mere mortal. Perspective could come later, and the glory of Donovan's moment might rise again in our minds; if he plays well and the U.S. still lose, at least we have this to cherish. This sporting god-status is ephemeral in the recent but can become forever-lasting in the months and years to come; there aren't too many like this in the American soccer story, so no matter how the rest of the tournament plays out it should remain special.
As a fan, these are the moments we live for. Nothing that came before Donovan's goal is material anymore. The fact that they seemed unable to grab the game and take over means nothing. All that matters is that they won, that they found a way, and that they live to fight on. Today is perfect.
Today, Landon Donovan is a god. Rightly so.