USA vs. Slovenia 2010 World Cup: U.S. Takes a Late Step Forward Against Slovenia
Like many true American sporting events, this game started well before a ball was ever kicked.
It started with words.
First, Slovenia midfielder Andrej Komac said, "We are going to win this match" on Tuesday.
Then, like any good American, Landon Donovan opened his mouth, "If we don't beat Slovenia, we don't deserve to advance anyway."
The stage was set, and depending on what side you stood and what half it was, the game proved to be an embarrassment or a showing of national pride.
Within seconds, Clint Dempsey found himself in a collision with Zlatan Ljubijankic . An inadvertent elbow struck Ljubijankic's head, and a physical battle was set to begin.
In the past, the U.S. has found itself lackadaisical in the first 20 minutes of a game. This game was no different.
Spectators saw Slovenia be the aggressor early, and just after the 13-minute mark, Valter Birsa kicked one into the net. The shot was impossible for keeper Tim Howard to stop, but the defense on the play was abysmal.
The Americans seemed to wake up after the goal—as they often do—but unfortunately lacked any rhythm to take advantage of a new sense of focus in the first half.
Their best opportunities began around the 36—minute mark.
First, Jose Torres found himself with a free kick and made it a great one. Yet Slovenian keeper Samir Handanovic was able to make the stop. Right after, a corner kick found the head of Jay DeMerit just missing the net. Then relentless attacking kept hitting the net.
That was until the U.S. lost possession and Slovenia made a break. Ljubijankic found himself open for a pass and one on one with Howard. There was nothing that could be done, and Slovenia added their second goal.
With a 2-0 lead heading into halftime, Slovenia looked confident and unstoppable. The United States, not so much.
Even ESPN's Alexi Lalas sounded demoralized at halftime, giving a look of horror at what he just witnessed while trying to stay impartial.
The second half started with a couple of substitutions hoping to bring some renewed energy into the American lineup. Maurice Edu replaced Torres, and Benny Feilhaber took Robbie Findley's spot.
The Americans came out with a pressure attack. They seemed to regroup at halftime, and Donovan scored a great goal into the top of the net. It was the first real goal of the World Cup for the team.
The U.S had another solid opportunity off a Donovan free kick a few minutes later, but that one couldn't find the back of the net. Their smothering attack kept pressure on Slovenia, but soon Slovenia regrouped.
The game crept to a back and forth tussle. Some American football tackles were thrown in, and the tone was set for the final 30 minutes.
Around the 70—minute mark, the U.S. had a great chance to tie. Jozy Altidore sent a bullet towards the net after a Donovan free kick, but Handanovic made another solid save and cleared the ball.
It appeared it might be the last true gasp of air for an American team with two completely different personalities throughout the game.
The energy of the U.S. team in the second half was unbelievable. The aggression and heart of the team would not let up.
It would only be fitting then, with 82 minutes gone by, that the coach's son Michael Bradley would score the tying goal. It was 2-2, and time remained for the Americans to win the game.
And they should have won. Edu was able to get the ball into the net off a free kick but was called on a faulty offsides disallowing the goal. On the same free kick Bradley was being held and at the least a penalty kick should have been had.
The U.S should have had more points that came out of this battle. But then again, when you only play for a half, maybe you don't deserve the full amount.
Now the team must wait and see what happens in Algeria vs. England match.
The United States is not in a terrible position with two points but needs to win next week. No more slow starts, and no more lack of organization on the field. Go in, do your job, and get the points awarded for a World Cup win.
As Donovan said, "If we don't beat Slovenia, we don't deserve to advance anyway."
Well, the final score indicates they did not win, but perhaps they still do deserve to advance after how it all went down in the end.
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