For the United States, Friday's match against Slovenia is a must-win.
Slovenia is at the top of Group C with three points. The US is tied with England for second place with one point a piece.
Even though the US and England sit at second place, they are still the favorites to advance from the group. What is not decided is who will be the winner and the runner-up.
Both teams will be favoured in their two remaining games against Algeria and Slovenia, so it is vital to get wins instead of settling for ties.
The Yanks have a chance to jump to the top of Group C if they can beat Slovenia.
The US will not disappoint.
On paper, America comes into this game with an advantage in advantage in almost every major position .
But the paper doesn’t matter. What matters is the play on the pitch.
US goalie, Tim Howard, was injured in the opening match against England, but has been cleared by doctors to play on Friday. Howard is the general in the back for the US having him healthy enough to play is huge for the US.
US defenders had to worry about stopping England’s loaded attack last game, but the game plan changes against Slovenia who is primarily a defensive team.
Outside backs will need to make runs down the sidelines to help the US attack. Steve Cherundolo did a nice job of getting into the offense against England and will be called upon again against Slovenia.
However, US defenders will need to get back if Slovenia counterattacks and keep an eye on Milivoje Novakovic. The 31-year-old forward is Slovenia’s biggest offensive threat scoring 16 goals in the Bundesliga in 08-09 season and five for Slovenia in qualifying.
On the other side of the pitch, the US offense desperately needs some creativity. It starts with the play of your center midfielders.
Wingers Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey can’t do anything if they are not receiving balls from the middle. Michael Bradley is a force in the middle but needs another player to work with him.
Ricardo Clark is not the answer.
Clark started for the US against England and was abysmal. Clark was beaten by Steven Gerrard for a goal and did not do anything meaningful for the US offensively.
Head coach Bob Bradley needs to start a player like Jose Torres or Maurice Edu in the other center midfielder position who can distribute the ball to attacking players.
When the US attacking players have chances, they need to capitalize on them because Slovenia won’t give them many. Slovenia only allowed four goals in their ten World Cup qualifying matches.
Jozy Altidore and company will need to find a way to crack through this strong backline of Slovenia.
I think they will. Twice .
After the 90 minutes are up the Yanks will get their first win of the 2010 World Cup and be sitting in first place of Group C.
US 2 Slovenia 0