After the first go-round of matches at the World Cup, the 32 teams are on pace to score less goals than any tournament in the event’s history.
And if the U.S. or Slovenia wants to advance out of pool play, they both hope that changes Friday.
With an early wake-up call for most Americans, the soccer stars will have to shine bright and often in order for the U.S. to win. They lucked out against the Brit’s thanks to Robert Green’s error and hope that their luck gives them three points this time.
On the other side, the Slovenians lead Group C, and a win would punch their ticket out of pool play. They are a very confident bunch and their quality play has caught the attention of the world and needs to be on display today.
Here are the most important players for both sides. Whoever gets more of their stars involved will come out on top and have nearly sealed their pass into the next round.
Handanovic came up huge against Algeria and he will have to have a repeat performance for Slovenia in order to give his team three points. He may not have had a lot of saves in the game, but he had a crucial stretch against a few free kicks that allowed him to keep a clean sheet in the team’s opener.
The young goalkeeper has the kind of ability to make those spectacular saves every single game, but he has trouble against crosses. For his side to lock up a berth into the second round, he will need to harness his experience and acrobatic ability, because the U.S. will be coming in hard and fast.
Clark had the first blunder of the tournament for the Americans, as his defense against England allowed for the Brits’ goal in the first four minutes. While he played solid the rest of the evening, he can’t have any breakdowns against Slovenia if the U.S. plans to struggle to score again.
The 27-year-old may not be a defender, but as far as defensive-minded midfielder’s goal, he’s usually one of the best. If he can check his emotions at the door in Johannesburg, he can help the U.S. attack with his speed and trickery, as well as his incredibly strong foot.
Suler seemed to be Slovenia’s Clark against Algeria, except his mental mistake didn’t cost his side a goal. But he can’t let the likes of Jozy Altidore out of his sights today, or else the 27-year-old defender is going to see a lot of U.S. backsides.
What Slovenia needs to do is use Suler’s talents more efficiently. The center back defender is a brilliant man-marker, but is underrated on the ball. If he can put together a full 90 minutes of defense, the Americans will not see many chances.
DeMerit’s defense on Wayne Rooney in the opening match proved to be a huge factor. Rooney didn’t get a touch in the box until well into the match, and the 30-year-old defender deserves a lot of the credit.
DeMerit, like Suler, is a terrific man-marker, but can occasionally lose focus while on the pitch. When he is on, he is on 100 percent, and that’s what the U.S. is counting on when they face an aggressive Slovenian attack.
Birsa had Slovenia’s only scoring opportunity during the first half against Algeria with an errant long distance opportunity. For his squad to win, the young forward needs to get involved way more early, and closer to the net.
The 23-year-old has an all-around attack that can make defenders go crazy. But if his inexperience and coy play comes up again, count on the Yanks to lock him down for good.
The face of U.S. soccer had an average output last time out and that can’t happen if he wants to bring home three points. The speedy forward needs to put his team on his back and prove he has the goods on an international stage.
What he needs to do is control the pace of the game and turn his tenacity to the offensive side. He pestered the Brits throughout, but didn’t get it going offensively to pose a threat.
Koren had the only goal for Slovenia against Algeria, and he needs to keep his foot on the gas today. He pushed the ball endlessly in their opener, and must do the same to exploit the U.S. defense.
The Slovenian captain has a lot of faith in his teammates. That’s fantastic, except in order for his team to get three points, he has to lead the attack and set an example. If that doesn’t happen early, the U.S. could win handily.
Clint Dempsey had the lucky strike against England, and is going to need some more Friday. His goal against Robert Green’s butterfingers will go down in the annals of time as a critical blunder.
But Dempsey needs to get his attack closer to the net. He is a great playmaker in space, but the Brits’ defense kept him in check most of the match. He may have scored, but he needs more room to operate to pull out a win.
Komac decided to talk smack to the U.S. as he called out a victory before the match. He needs to back up his words in order to stop his country from looking foolish.
The midfielder can do that by using his strong passing ability and facilitating skills. He may not have scored in the opener versus Algeria, but his stamp was all over the game. That must stay consistent Friday for Slovenia to ensure a berth into the second round.
Howard’s incredible play between the sticks was the reason the U.S. pulled to a draw versus the huge favorites in England. Wave after wave of British attacks came at him and he repelled them all.
The biggest concern is how much his injury will affect his movement. Everyone knows he’s one of the best keepers around when healthy, but if his ribs start acting up during the match, the U.S. could be in a lot of trouble.