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World Cup: Donovan says U.S. defense never rests

June 23, 2010 |  6:01 pm

Landon Donovan may have scored the winning goal and Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey may have helped set it up. But Donovan said the U.S. could never have outlasted Algeria in Wednesday's crucial World Cup match if not for the unsung heroes who locked down the Algerian attack.

Needing a win to advance to the World Cup's second round for only the third time in 80 years, the U.S. attack had to push forward, which placed added pressure on the defense.

"We had to rely on our back four," he said. "Michael [Bradley] really did a good job of stopping their counterattacks."

And Donovan's confidence in Bradley and the others indirectly led to the winning goal, he said. When an Algerian shot went in early in stoppage time, Donovan was so confident in his defenders he was already cheating up the field.

"I wanted to take a good touch forward and be aggressive right away," he said. "And I had a lot of options. I chose Jozy and he did a good job of putting a dangerous ball [on goal]. And Clint did a great job of making an effort to get in front of the goalie. And then it just bounced there [to me.]"

After the match former President Clinton spent more than a half-hour in the U.S. dressing room, congratulating the team on its win and the spirit it showed. Both Donovan and U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said the visit was uplifting.

"He was just proud of us," said Bocanegra, who made a short speech with the former president looking on. "Winning this game, having him in the locker room with us afterward. It was really emotional."

-- Kevin Baxter, reporting from Pretoria, South Africa