The USA earned a controversial 2-2 draw with Group C adversary Slovenia at Ellis Park in Johannesburg today. Hours after the U.S. result, England reached a listless nil-nil draw with Algeria, raising the stakes on the third and final round of group play. Next Wednesday, June 23, the USA face Algeria and England face Slovenia to determine which two teams will advance into the next knockout phase of the tournament.
Slovenia got a two-goal lead in the first half with Valter Birsa scoring first in the 13th minute and Zlatan Ljubijankic assisted by Milivoge Novakovic talling again just before the half. In the 48th minute, Landon Donovan assisted by Steve Cherundolo brought the U.S. back into the game by taking the ball to the near post and chipping it into the upper netting. As the match grew heated, Slovenia was issued three cautions, but Michael Bradley scored the equalizer, assisted by Jozy Altidore, when he half-volleyed the ball past keeper Samir Handanovic. In the 85th minute, referee Koman Coulibaly called a controversial no-goal after Maurice Edu blasted the ball into the net off a Donovan free kick. Edu was onside and there were no perceivable fouls against the U.S. in replay.
WIth his goal, Donovan became the third U.S. player, after Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey, to score a goal in two different World Cups (2002 and 2010).
The USA still have a good chance of advancing in the World Cup. Slovenia currently leads with a win and a draw, the USA and England are tied for second with two draws apiece and Algeria is fourth with a draw and a loss. With these results, the U.S. can advance with a win over Algeria or if the U.S. draws Algeria and Slovenia beats England. If the U.S. draws Algeria and Slovenia draws England, the goals scored will be the tiebreaker with England and the U.S. currently has a +2 goal differential over England.
Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley speak with referee Koman Coulibaly
Photo: AP/Luca Bruno
The match versus Slovenia was a rollercoaster, starting with the conspicious absence of LA Galaxy forward Edson Buddle, the leading goalscorer (9) of MLS. Instead, coach Bob Bradley played striker Robbie FIndley of Real Salt Lake, who has only four caps and no international goals. Findley received his second caution and is suspended for the Algeria match. Bradley positioned Jose Torres in the central midfield, but the US Men’s National Team got off to their typically slow start and created few opportunities on top while opening others for Slovenia, who took full advantage.
“We started the match poorly,” said Donovan. “We were tentative, I think we sat too deep which caused us problems. At that point you have no choice but to push the game. It’s easy in hindsight to say we need to start that way, but we do need to start games that way. Especially going into our third game, we have no choice but to win if we want to advance so that’s the way we’re going to have to play.”
Herculez Gomez and Michael Bradley celebrate his goal
Photo: AP/Martin Meissner
After the half, the USMNT came out of the locker room with a different approach and two substitutions. Maurice Edu replaced Torres and Benny Feilhaber replaced Findley. The USMNT seem to play better when they’re losing, and that was the case again. Although far from vanquished, Slovenia no longer dominated the play and under pressure made mistakes which the the U.S. exploited.
“We seem to play better when we’re behind and that’s all got to change,” said keeper Tim Howard. “I think a lot of teams play better when they’re emotional. Sometimes it’s about throwing the game plan out the window and standing toe to toe with the next guy and winning your battles.”
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U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report
Match: United States vs. Slovenia
Date: June 18, 2010
Competition: FIFA World Cup
Venue: Ellis Park – Johannesburg, South Africa
Kickoff: 4 p.m. local time
Weather: Sunny and dry, 57 degrees Fahrenheit
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
Slovenia 2 0 2
SVN – Valter Birsa 13th minute
SVN – Zlatan Ljubijankic (Milivoje Novakovic) 42
USA – Landon Donovan (Steve Cherundolo) 48
USA – Michael Bradley (Jozy Altidore) 82
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Steve Cherundolo, 15-Jay DeMerit, 5-Oguchi Onyewu (9-Herculez Gomez, 80), 3-Carlos Bocanegra; 8-Clint Dempsey, 4-Michael Bradley, 16-Jose Torres (19-Maurice Edu, 46), 10-Landon Donovan; 20-Robbie Findley (Benny Feilhaber, 46), 17-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 6-Jonathan Spector, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 11-Stuart Holden, 12, Jonathan Bornstein, 13 -Ricardo Clark, 17-Jozy Altidore, 18-Brad Guzan, 21-Clarence Goodson, 23-Marcus Hahnemann
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
SVN: 1-Samir Handanovic; 2-Miso Brecko, 4-Marko Suler, 5-Bostjan Cesar, 13-Bojan Jokic; 8-Robert Koren (capt.), 9-Zlatan Ljubijankic (7-Nejc Pecnik, 74; 20-Andrej Komac, 90+4), 10-Valter Birsa (14-Zlatko Dedic, 87), 17-Andraz Kirm, 18-Aleksandar Radosavljevic; 11-Milivoje Novakovic
Subs not used: 12-Jasmin Handanovic, 16-Aleksander Seliga; 3-Elvedin Dzinic, 6-Branko Ilic, 15-Rene Krhin, 19-Suad Filekovic, 21-Dalibor Stevanovic, 22-Matej Mavric, 23-Tim Matavz
Head Coach: Matjaz Kek
Stats Summary: USA / SVN
Shots: 14 / 7
Shots on Goal: 6 / 4
Saves: 2 / 4
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 18 / 15
Offside: 0 / 3
SVN – Bostjan Cesar (caution) 35th minute
USA – Robbie Findley (caution) 40
SVN – Marko Suler (caution) 69
SVN – Andraz Kirm (caution) 72
SVN – Bojan Jokic (caution) 75
Referee: Koman Coulibaly (MLI)
Assistant Referee 1: Redouane Achik (MAR)
Assistant Referee 2: Inacio Candido (ANG)
Fourth Official: Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh (MAS)
ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Michael Bradley