U.S. 3, Slovenia 2: The Highlights

As a YouTube commenter wrote, this is the second time the U.S. has beaten Slovenia 3-2. Ha.

Defender Carlos Bocanegra earned his 100th cap for the U.S. in this game, and Slovenia presented him with a commemorative jersey before kickoff. Classy gesture.

Check out the goals and highlights below.

For five thoughts on the current state of Klinsmann’s boys, click here.

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Remember When: U.S. vs Slovenia at South Africa 2010

The U.S. plays Slovenia in an international friendly tomorrow at noon (ESPN2). With that in mind, let’s take a look back at their World Cup Group C meeting back in the summer of 2010.

The tale-of-two-halves cliché was in full, maddening effect in this one, as the U.S. produced an awful first 45 minutes to go down 2-0, then rallied furiously after the break. They tied it on Michael Bradley‘s dramatic 82nd-minute equalizer, and then, well—”Ko-man Cou-libaly!”

/shakes fist Wrath of Khan style

The highlights:

The Americans will be looking to better their 1-4-1 record under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who has seen his side score just two goals in six games.

Edu’s Goal: the Zapruder Screen Grab

This is the “back-and-to-the-left” moment of the U.S.-Slovenia game, which should have sent the Yanks to the top of Group C (for Crazy):

Check it out, courtesy of Soccer By Ives commenter “Zac”:

Zac has circled only four Americans being grappled by Slovene defenders, but there are actually five, if you notice Jay DeMerit being shoulder-tackled on the far side of the shot. Michael Bradley, in the lower right corner, is being wrapped up WWE-style.

And what about Maurice Edu, the goal-scorer and the player, apparently, who was whistled for the foul? He’s number 19 in the center of the shot, bursting through to score—as a Slovenian player attempts to foul him.

Koman Coulibaly’s name goes down next to Hugh Dallas’s on the growing list of  refs who have jobbed the U.S. at the World Cup.

But, onward and upward—after England’s surprising (and surprisingly listless) 0-0 draw with Algeria, the U.S. controls its destiny: beat the Algerians next Wednesday and advance.

U.S. Survives Worst First Half in the History of World Football, Rallies from 2-0 Down, then Has Late Winner Disallowed by Inept Referee

That’s right, we’re going with a 23-word, mildly hyperbolic headline to sum up today’s bats***-crazy game between the U.S. and Slovenia at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

After a first half that had U.S. fans convinced they’d been launched via time machine back to the late-1980s, the heyday of Rick Davis and Steve Trittschuh, the Yanks found themselves down 2-0 and their World Cup adventure looking all but over.

Only four teams in World Cup history had ever rallied from a 2-0 halftime deficit to earn a draw, and no team had ever come back from such a deficit to win.

Neither outcome was looking likely for the U.S., which was simply terrible through the first 45 minutes, getting overrun in midfield, in disarray at the back, and showing no imagination or threat in attack.

Bob Bradley substituted Maurice Edu for Jose Torres (more on him later) and Benny Feilhaber for Robbie Findley, and the U.S. came out blazing in the second half. Just three minutes in Landon Donovan pulled one back.

He got behind the Slovene defense and charged at the near post. Seeing no options to cut the ball back, he simply blasted it into the roof of the net from close range and a tight angle.

The Yanks were energized, but still showed a persistent inability to keep possession, and continued to lose the midfield battle by a small landslide. They did battle on, and eventually scored a stunning equalizer in the 82nd minute after Jozy Altidore knocked it down for an onrushing Michael Bradley to finish spectacularly.

Three minutes later, the U.S. scored again, Edu shoveling in a free kick from Donovan, but the goal was mysteriously disallowed. First we heard ‘offside’ then, apparently, a foul by Edu. Replays showed neither, but they did show three Slovene defenders with U.S. players in firm bearhugs.

The decision by Malian referee Koman Coulibaly remains mysterious, and it denied the Americans a piece of World Cup history.

Here’s Everton manager David Moyes on the call: “I’ve just seen that disallowed goal for the U.S. again—and not only was there no foul by a U.S. player, there are probably two penalty-kick offences being committed by the Slovenian defenders. Shocking decision.”

Aye, Mr. Moyes. Aye.

But having seen its team go down 2-0, U.S. fans will take the draw, and they had to enjoy what was easily the most entertaining game of the tournament so far.

Three final thoughts

• This game went absolutely nothing like most observers figured it would. Slovenia did not sit back as expected, but came out aggressively from the opening whistle and pressured the U.S. all over the field. The game wasn’t just not battened-down, it was weirdly wide open. In the second half the teams were wildly stretched, leaving huge gaps in midfield and producing end-to-end action. The Slovenes also seemed the physical/athletic equals of the Yanks—which is the opposite of the pregame information coming from everywhere, even Slovenia’s camp.

• The Jose Torres Experiment backfired, brutally. We touched on this yesterday, and we were surprised to see him in the starting XI. He shouldn’t have been: Torres had a stinker, looking overawed by the occasion, slow, giving away possession cheaply and, in our view, largely at fault for the first Slovenia goal (he was out of position and left a huge gap behind the pressuring Bradley). He did test the keeper with a bending free kick, but we don’t expect him to be back on the field next Wednesday.

• We’ve said it before; it’s all about nerves and mentality with this U.S. team. How else to explain the difference between the two halves, and the glaringly obvious jitters in the first 20 minutes? Clint Dempsey was so hinky out of the gate he nearly drew a red card in the first minute. The team committed unforced errors all over the place, scuffing simple passes, playing balls to nowhere while not under any pressure, etc. They played well below their level (and yet still won the game, minus the officiating gaffe at the end).

And now they face a must-win, do-or-die game against Algeria next Wednesday. The team shrink may need to call in reinforcements.

Player ratings to follow.