Friday, June 18, 2010

US bitter sweet draw versus Slovenia

As my friend and fellow pod-caster Sam told me, "the US always has a good game, a mediocre game and terrible game during the group stages of the World Cup." Clearly this latest match was a little bit of everything! One paper this seemed like a  mismatch, in the favor of the United States not something you always see in the world of real football (aka soccer). Especially when it is the US paired with an European opponent.  After a much anticipated match against their former mother country - England - the United States had a point in the pocket and had equaled the nation that was clearly their biggest rival in this group, so facing Slovenia a nation with the population about equal to the greater Boston area, you would think the US would fancy their chances for the full 3 points. Oh and Alexi Lalas confidently predicted a 2-0 United States victory, we should have all known that was the kiss of death!

The United States seemed to come out partially believing this, and seemed a little lackadaisical and somewhat surprised when Slovenia took it to the United States. Many might have expected the Europeans to sit back and try to defend for a draw and hope for a counter to get a goal. Instead they came out and looked to play for the win from the first minute. Slovenia found themselves up 2-0 at the half on two goals that clearly seemed to come out Onyewu and the American defense being too passive. The first the American central defender did not close down Birsa allowing him to strike a beautiful left footed shot into Howard's upper 90 (the ball certainly did not take off on that shot). The second goal saw Onyewu stuck like a statue allowing Ljubijankic to stroll in for a clinical finish. On both scores the American defenders looked flat footed and hesitated, both of which are cardinal sins at this level. So that was the "ugly" half. Which lead to the "good" half.

The Americans came out after the break with a renewed lease on life due to...gulp...Landycakes who took his chance and put in a Ronaldoesc goal -

I have to admit it was a big goal for the US....and it came from yes Landycakes...I cannot imagine that I am singing his praises again. But I am...ugh. He also went on to play very well the remainder of the half it was his well weighed pass into the box that Altidore was able to head down for Bradley to complete the come back. Finally Landycakes put in a fantastic set piece to get what should have been the winner, watching the replay it is difficult to see where a foul was committed unless you give a PK to the United States since at least 2 of their players suffered assault and battery...ok I need to take a breath because this much praise from me for Landycakes means I am not well!

The Slovenias did continue to push up the pitch themselves and had a good chance late only to see the header from Novakovic that was well placed but lacked the pace to really trouble Howard. The US must feel bitter sweet about this game, they dug themselves a huge hole but were able to rally and get the draw (and almost win). However they cannot be satisfied with the first half, they let in 2 goals where their lack of action allowed Slovenia to take their chances and made the US pay. If the United States think they will just stroll out onto the pitch and defeat Algeria all they need to do is watch today's first half to learn that they cannot afford to take any team for granted, unless they were playing France next in which case it would be a guaranteed 3 points.

So if I take an audit of the United States based on Sam's statement I would say they had a mediocre game versus England and had 1 terrible half against Slovenia and 1 great half. Meaning our balance sheet still has 1 of each...I will hope for my US friends that the better half against Algeria out weighs the poor one! The US gets the point, although they really fancied the full 3.

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