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Our comeback kids stay alive
by Paul Kennedy, June 18th, 2010 10:19AM

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TAGS:  men's national team, world cup


[USA-SLOVENIA] Who says soccer isn't exciting? The USA stayed alive at the World Cup with a 2-2 tie against Slovenia after going two goals down in the first half. There was a lot to like and not like about the U.S. performance in an incident-filled game ...

What we liked ...

-- How many times have we seen Michael Bradley come out of nowhere and charge into the penalty area to steal a goal? Bradley ran from a deep-lying position on to Jozy Altidore's knockdown and blasted it past Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovic for the equalizer.

-- No U.S. player has ever been under more pressure to produce at the World Cup than Landon Donovan, and he responded with the key early goal in the second half to get the Americans back in the game.

-- On a day when the USA had few ideas, Altidore was a force in the American attack. The Slovenian defenders struggled to handle the 20-year-old Altidore throughout the game.

-- The U.S. comeback marked only the fifth time in World Cup history a team has come back from two goals down at the half and earned a tie. The USA would have been the first team to come back from 2-0 down at the break and win if Malian referee Koman Coulibaly had not disallowed Maurice Edu's goal.

What we didn't like ...

-- All the defensive problems the USA displayed in its 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic last month were again on display against Slovenia. Its marking was nonexistent on the two Slovenian goals, but the fact of the matter is that it could have been worse. Time and again, the Americans left Slovenia acres of space or turned the ball over in dangerous situations.

-- Coulibaly's calls throughout the USA-Slovenia game were, to say the least, interesting. From beginning to end, Coulibaly had his hands full with an incident-filled game, and he didn't handle it well. A yellow card to Robbie Findley that will keep him out of the Algeria game? A foul on Edu's apparent winning goal? Only Coulibaly knows what happened. (In the interest of equal time, the Slovenians also had issue with Coulibaly's work.)

-- So much had been expected of Jose Francisco Torres after his solid second half against Turkey in the final game of the U.S. send-off series, but his insertion in the starting lineup against Slovenia -- the lone change from the England match -- simply didn't work out. His free kick stopped at the near post was his lone contribution in a disappointing first half.

-- Against a predictable England team and with the support of an organized backline, Oguchi Onyewu had a solid game against the English but was exposed badly against Slovenia, looking slow and tentative.

June 18 in Johannesburg
United States 2 Slovenia 2. Goals: Donovan 48, Bradley 82; Birsa 13, Ljubijankic 42.
United States -- Howard, Cherundolo, DeMerit, Onyewu (Gomez, 80), Bocanegra, Dempsey, Bradley, Torres (Feilhaber, 46), Donovan, Altidore, Findley (Edu, 46).
Slovenia -- S.Handanovic, Brecko, Suler, Cesar, Koren, Ljubijankic (Pecnik, 74; Komac 90), Birsa (Dedic, 87), Novakovic, Jokic, Kirm, Radosavljevic.
Yellow Card: Findley 40; Slovenia -- Cesar 35, Suler 69, Kirm 72, Jokic 75.
Referee: Koman Coulibaly (Mali).



28 comments
  1. Gregory Weiss
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 12:47 p.m.
    I hate to complain about referees...but calling off a goal for an invisible foul took away what should have been a fairtale win for the U.S. Just a shame. If you told me I would be bitter about a tie at halftime I don't think I would have believed you. On another note, how do we root in the final game? Announcers keep saying that we want a tie but I'm thinking an outright win for Algeria (a fantasy, but still) puts us in best position to control our own destiny with a win next week, right? That would put Slovenia at 4, Algeria at 3, U.S. at 2 and England at 1. A win for the U.S. against Algeria and we would advance no matter the result of Slovenia-England...

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 1:30 p.m.
    Thrilling game and a well-deserved tie -- should have been a win!! I have a question for all of you holders of "C" licenses--why was Torres playing so deep--just in front of the defense? I thought he was supposed to be in the game to bring some creativity. In my mind you need to be playing a bit higher in order to do that. Is it me? Was Torres playing out of position? Was this BB's idea? Why why why. However, no matter what the reason, BB did his usual by pulling him !!! The good news was that Feilhaber and Edu were brought in.

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 4:33 p.m.
    Torres and Bradley weak as a team in the first half. Poor marking on both goals from the all the defense, nice second half from the USA, esp Donovan, He scores, makes the great long pass to Altidore for the assist on Bradley's goal, and assists on Edu's goal. Pathetic calls from the referee constantly throughout the game. The USA will have to beat Algeria by more than England or hope England beats Slovenia and then the USA goes through.

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 4:34 p.m.
    Now with the Eng-Slo tie, USA controls its own destiny. Win and go through. Algeria looks the weakest in the group, I wouldn't be surprised to see Slovenia beat England.

  1. Mike Gaynes
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 4:41 p.m.
    The good news is that England's dismal performance means that the US advances with a win over Algeria, and could advance as the group winner if England beats Slovenia by a low score. So if the US does its job, the Great Referee Ripoff won't do any lasting damage.

  1. Steven SIegel
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 4:57 p.m.
    In response to James F, every team plays with a defensive mid. If Clark comes out of the game, it has to be somebody. I've posted this time and again, if you want to take advantage of Torres' creativity in going forward, he will have to take somebody else's place, not Clark's. In the second half, it was Edu who anchored the defensive mid, though I think he is way to erratic and delivered some truly awful balls. Algeria is a very talented side except for the final thrust to score a goal. They will give the US all kinds of problems. If they score early, they will pose more of a problem for the US than Slovenia did. They spent 90 minutes defending against England, without allowing a really decent highlight. There is no reason to think the US will get a better result.

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 5:07 p.m.
    Steven S. --- how would you define MB. While I am not an MB basher I don't consider him a creative mid. The way I'm hearing this we don't really have one

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 5:08 p.m.
    BTW -- Steven thanks for the comment

  1. Thomas Fouce
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 5:28 p.m.
    Frankly, Torres was dreadful. His passes were sloppy and lacked crispness and he just looked slow out there. Very disappointing outing for him. I expected better. The called-off 3rd goal was frustrating but we could have won 2-1 or even 2-0 with some decent defense. We need to correct the bad habit of starting off so slowly. All that said, we are in control of our destiny.

  1. Thomas Fouce
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 5:31 p.m.
    Question for discussion: What would anyone think about starting Spector instead of 'Gooch vs. Algeria? Or move Bocanegra inside and have Spector play outside. Comments?

  1. Ean Fenty
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 5:49 p.m.
    My highlight is the fact that Findley's yellow means BB finally has to start an in form striker in Buddle or Gomez. But he'll probably go with Dempsey up top instead.

  1. Karl Ortmertl
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 6:04 p.m.
    If Slovenia beats England, all we need is a tie against Algeria and we're in. Easier said than done with our non-existent defense. I hate to say it, but we probably will need a formation with our current back four, Clark and Bradley in defensive mode in front of them and Donovan, Dempsey, Torres and Altidore up front. Hopefully, these four can get us a goal or two while we hold the defensive blunders down to no more than one.

  1. Brian Herbert
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.
    It just hit me!!! Today's USA - Slovenia 2-2 tie, where what should have been the winning USA goal was incorrectly disallowed, contained a hidden message from God. It took me a while to translate the message, but when I did, here is what it said: DEAREST FIFA: This is God, so listen up, I have a to-do list for you: 1. Thou shalt bring thy game into the 21st century. 2. Thou shalt start using a video review of critical calls (goals disallowed, red cards) if the manager of a side requests it. 3. Thou shalt actually stop the holy here-be-fore never stopped game clock while a supervisory video review referee consults with the field referee over what the correct ruling should be. 4. Thou shalt also show sponsor commercials on the tv during this pause in the action, which will help everyone make money, which is a good thing for the game. 5. Thou will make your fans happy with these pauses in the action, because its unfair to expect fans to wait 45 minutes between bathroom breaks. If thou shalt refuse my request, I shall continue to strike referees deaf, dumb, and blind during critical matches, as I did today in the USA-Slovenia match. Yours Truly, GOD (if my fictional letter from God offends anyone in any way, I want you to know that no offense is intended)

  1. Kent James
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 6:32 p.m.
    Bradley's goal was almost unbelievable; he hit a toe-poke on a ball bouncing high and far in front of him while on the full run; that ball was almost impossible not to hit over but he figured a way to do it. I hope that will convince the people who think he only gets playing time because his dad is the coach the he deserves the time he gets. He's not as creative as some, but when he attacks he does so with power and often places his shots well. His work rate and the intelligence of most of his passes are also admirable. I generally like Edu, but boy did he look nervous (I started to get nervous for him!). It's a shame his goal was taken away for the phantom foul, because I'm sure that would have gotten rid of some of the nerves. Although our defense has shown some lapses, I thought Demerit and Cherundolo both played very well. Generally the refereeing has been outstanding in the tournament, but this referee kept fabricating fouls against the US in Slovenia's penalty area (like the yellow card (!) for Findlay's chest trap). It was great to see Donovan score such an important goal. It was also nice to see him so composed, look for what would have been an easy pass for a goal if some one could get there, but when he saw no one there, he did what he needed to do and just hammered it from almost no angle. Well done. If we beat Algeria, we should be fine, and if we don't, then we probably don't deserve to advance. Mentally, I think we play better when we play for the win anyway, but it would have been nice to win this game.

  1. Brian Herbert
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 6:35 p.m.
    @Steven: you mention Clark's role as a defensive mid, but it was Clark who lost his mark on Gerrard, allowing him to score England's first goal. I had the game on DVR and watched Clark kind of wander away from Gerrard, Gerrard getting goalside on him and making a run, and then Clark trying to make up for it too late. It was just a brief lapse, but a costly one.

  1. Ted Hartwell
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 7:27 p.m.
    Well, I guess I have to be happy with the 1 point that should have been 3, especially when it was looking like it would probably be a big fat zero! Beating Algeria will be much easier said than done, as they have as much to play for now as the US does, and will need a win to have a chance at going through. I thought Algeria played a wonderful possession game at times (something I'd like to see the US do a bit more rather than playing so many hopeful long balls), but fortunately, they seem pretty lost once they get the ball into the final third...very little creativity, which I hope continues. Also, I have never bought into the complaints about the new ball that is produced prior to each World Cup...until now. For the first time, I can believe that the new ball is leading to some of the poor play, especially by the world's better teams. I have never seen so many balls played so long, bounce so high on arcing trajectories or long on flat trajectories, and shot wildly over the goal. The pace on the ground often seems faster as well, with many players seeming to misjudge the speed until it's too late and the ball is across the touch line. I think if FIFA wants to introduce a new ball for future World Cups, they should do so during the last round of qualifying, so that all teams have plenty of time to get used to playing with it prior to the World Cup. While I do think it has had somewhat of an equalizing effects among teams, it has been at the sacrifice of good play, which sucks...I want to see the best teams in the world doing what they do best! Am I completely off base, or does anyone else agree??

  1. Mj Lee
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 7:33 p.m.
    First of all, a hearty thank you to the USMNT, LD, and young Bradley for showing so much character in the 2nd half. That said, I must AGAIN DING COACH BRADLEY. Why does he keep thinking LD and Dempsey should be outside mids, because it just plain doesn't work. And why did he start Tiny Torres in the middle against the huge Slovenians? And why he doesn't use Herculez or Edson over Findley, I'll never understand. I'm glad Findley got that incredulous yellow, because it forces the decision that Bradley refused to make. So really, since he recognized his errors at half-time, Coach gets a 3.5 on the Mahoney scale.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 8:15 p.m.
    I agree, Torres had a tough one, but why is he in there trying to be the DMF? He is not suited for that role.If he is our creative type MF, shouldn't he be more up top to link with Jozy, Landon and Clint. Almost all of the passes he made were to the back four defenders, they were the nearest to him. Seemed he had to cover for Bradley, and Bradley had the creative MF role. (backwards to my thinking) We won't have to worry about that anymore, we probably won't see Torres again. Fielhaber did a bit better because he had the freedom to get forward with Edu doing the DMF work. Why couldn't Torres have that same support? Don't count on seeing our most in form strikers(Buddle and Gomez) in a starting role. Look for Dempsey to start up top with Jozy. None of that will matter anyway unless we sort things in the back and prevent soft early goals. We should be better in the back by now.

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 9:45 p.m.
    Walt--thank you,thank you,thank you!! Torres was absolutely out of position playing as the DMF. Admittedly he didn't have the greatest game but it certainly would be nice to have him playing in his natural position.

  1. Brian Herbert
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 9:56 p.m.
    Agree with the last few comments, Torres should be outside left mid. In the second half versus Turkey, I thought that was where he was, and Clint moved back to inside left alongside Bradley, or did I just imagine that?

  1. Steven SIegel
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 11:40 p.m.
    Good point, Brian H., about Clark MIA during the Gerard goal. That is exactly why he didn't get the nod against Slovenia. I am not defending Clark, I am just saying that if someone replaces him, they will be limited in their ability to go forward. As evidenced form the England game and first half of the Slovenia matce, LD needs to have a bigger role. Findley has done ok, but we need someone with better holding skills up front. In the first half, RF missed LD coming in following Altidore on the breakaway and instead fed Altidore, who was blanketed by a defender. RF just didn't have the maturity to spot LD making the later run. He needed to get the ball to his 'second wave.' Maybe now it's time to put LD either up front with Altidore (MB staying where he is) or as a center mid with MB dropping back.

  1. Steven SIegel
    commented on: June 18, 2010 at 11:48 p.m.
    In answer to a previous question, sure I see MB as a center mid. But his game is very calculated. He doesn't keep the ball at his feet for long, and he is very measured in going forward. He distributes very well and usually gets his teammates the ball in very good position. He may be the best player on the team at making his teammates look good.

  1. Terence Chu
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 9:44 a.m.
    the thing is, EVERYone was clamorimg for Torres to come in for Clark for this game (including me) and we got our wish. I personally don't think any of the first half drivel was down to torres individually, but much more of a collective failure to operate as a team. The thing about this team, interestingly, is that I'm starting to think that team chemistry among the squad is so good that it doesn't matter all that much what tactical formation we play (to a certain extent). It more down to mental preparation, and concentration from the squad. There wasn't much difference in strategy from the first and second half today. Both goals were produced from long balls over the top. It's just that someone lit a fire at halftime and it's a whole different team. the biggest question now is, how do we get the team to play like this from the start of the game? @Brian torres played the same role in the Turkey friendly that he did yesterday, which also struck me strange at the time. He played deep and distributed the ball from the back, while MB played in an advanced role. watching the first half again, he didn't have the options for his trademark passing, probably due to tighter marking from the Slovenes. He was often alone just in front of the back four, with his only outlet a long ball forward or going back to the defenders. instead, the midfielder should have been tracking back to receive the ball from him and give him options to get out of his position.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 1:43 p.m.
    I thought it was a positive that BB was willing to replace his favorite playmate for Mikey, Rico. It's really too bad that Torres put up such a stinker, because BB probably will not give him another shot. He's already 'biased' against JFT, JFT just gave him more reason to be. Edu was nervous and tentative. Most of his passes were back to his defenders. Feilhaber was more poised but still didn't do much in his opportunity. Perhaps moving Dempsey up top. Sliding Stu Holden into Clint's LM position gives the US a little more 'two-winged' crossing ability with Landon and Stu whipping dangerous balls towards Jozy and Clint. Mike Bradley is fine. His work rate is tough to criticize. His opportunism is also a bit uncanny.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 1:54 p.m.
    Defense. I can't figure out what the deal is with our defenders. One positive is that we did the same thing in the Confed Cup last year. Lousy play early and the defending got better against Egypt, Spain, and 1st half against Brazil (probably our best 2.5-game stretch of play in years). I still have those Confed Cup games on my DVR because we played so competitively and sometimes I just need to see what these guys are really capable of when they're in form. Perhaps another 5 days of training together and another 90 minutes when it counts, will allow these guys to begin that gelling process that shocked 2 'invincible' nations (#1 & #2) for a game and a half last summer. Charlie Davies, why didn't you respect the team curfew last October?? Where would we be now??

  1. Brian Herbert
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 3:03 p.m.
    This was probably LD's worst outing since the first half of the Turkey friendly (and for him a "poor" outing still includes a beautiful top shelf goal and a set piece for what should have been a game winner!). Unfortunately, if LD is not driving the game, if he's losing some 1v1's, making some errant passes, the rest of the team struggle to compensate for him. I think of how the Lakers compensated for a poor outing by Kobe in game 7, I'd like to see us mature as a team like that.

  1. Terence Chu
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 4:06 p.m.
    Its not just the defence that was having problems in the first, it was the inability for anyone in the midfield and defense to put pressure on the opposition when they had the ball. This happened all over the field. Why was everyone caught ball watching while the Slovenes found so much space? These are the issues that the US needs to address, and its not the first time either.

  1. Frank Cebul
    commented on: June 20, 2010 at 9:11 p.m.
    Appreciate reading all of the thoughtful comments. What bothered me about the Slovenia game was that the midfield could not advance the ball to the forwards. Repeatedly the ball was passed back to the back line, leading to a long kick resulting in giving away the ball. If that strategy had shown signs of success it would have been one thing,but US did not seem to be able to seek out different solutions to the Slovenian defense until after half-time. Michael Bradley had a good game and is a good ball passer, but neither he nor potential team leader Donovan seemed able or willing to take charge to direct a different strategy in the first half. I am not sure that minor personnel changes(Edu/Torres/Feilhaber for Clark, or Buddle/Gomez up top)will matter as much as this team improvising and adapting to overcome opponents' defenses. In spite of months/years of preparation this team does not seem able to adapt quickly enough. I do hope that the coaching staff adequately address this problem and that the players step up to the challenge because I think that every US soccer fan has the right to expect victory against Algeria. Unless we are placed in a group of death, the US should never fail to get out of the group stage in any world cup final.


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