What worked so well for Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley against England did not in his second game at the World Cup.
A 2-2 draw against Slovenia at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa on Friday put the Americans in a predictable position going into its third game next Wednesday against Algeria.
Slovenia came onto the pitch already three points clear and dictated the play from the outset, frustrating the Americans with nifty off-ball runs and unselfish passes.
The U.S. defense, which was its calling card in its historic 1-1 draw against England, was nowhere to be found early on as Slovenia had what seemed like acres of space.
Findley stretched out England with his pace in the first game, but against the last-place qualifier from Europe he had trouble–like his American teammates–finding a rhythm against a Slovenia team that eked its way into the party by defeating Russia in a two-leg elimination.
Findley’s troubles manifested in the 40th minute when he was whistled on a call in Slovenia’s penalty box by Mali referee Koman Coulibaly that–along with an extremely questionable call on a U.S. goal that was disallowed–will likely be argued about for some time.
On the attacking play, a U.S. cross into the Slovenian 18-yard box, the referee issued Findley for touching the ball with his hand, though several TV replays clearly showed the ball hit the RSL striker in the face.
Nevertheless, with Findley already in yellow card peril heading into this second game–and now out for the third on account of his second yellow–he was substituted at halftime.
The comatose U.S. attack–as well as its sluggish defense–came to life immediately after the break in cold Johannesburg. Forward Landon Donovan of the L.A. Galaxy found himself in open space on the right flank in the opening minute and streaked toward the goal unencumbered.
He fired a laser at the Slovenian goalkeeper, who seemed astounded that Donovan would take such an attempt from an awkward angle. With a match ball that has been suspect at times during the World Cup, the Adidas Jabulani rocketed skyward into the left side netting and gave the Americans life.
In the 82nd minute the Americans evened up the score, as a header from forward Jozy Altidore bounced toward an onrushing Michael Bradley, and the coach’s son slammed his half-volley attempt past Slovenia’s goalkeeper.
But the most controversial moment of the game–and possibly the World Cup–came in the 86th minute, when Donovan sliced a free kick from his favored right flank into the middle of the Slovenia penalty box. After much jostling–particularly by Slovenia, it seemed–second-half substitute midfielder Maurice Edu broke free of his marker and volleyed home a goal to make the score 3-2.
However, Coulibaly again showed his incompetence by disallowing the goal and called Edu–of all people–for a foul although several Americans were pulled down in the pileup. It may have cost the Americans a chance to advance through.
It also wasn’t the best of games for Findley, who came into the World Cup as a surprise selection for not only the England match, but the national team as well.
Despite playing only 47 minutes in the game–after acquitting himself well against England–Findley will have to look to his U.S. teammates and a little help from other teams in order to get back on the pitch in the second round.
For more info on Robbie Findley at the World Cup: