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Posted: Thursday June 17, 2010 6:34PM ; Updated: Friday June 18, 2010 12:05PM
Georgina Turner
Georgina Turner>INSIDE THE WORLD CUP

USA vs. Slovenia instant analysis

Here it is, the big game that everyone's been waiting for since oooh, Saturday. Slovenia is in pole position in Group C having taken three points from its opening encounter with Algeria, but the U.S. has already faced group favorite England and taken a well-earned point; here, it has the chance to put itself into the lead and crank up the pressure on England, playing later.

The U.S. has to be careful not to underestimate Slovenia, but I don't: given the limited display we saw from the Slovenians against Algeria (it took the dismissal of Abdelkader Ghezzal and a sloppy error from Faouzi Chaouchi to give them the winning goal), Bob Bradley's men should be more than capable of getting the win.

Join me from 9.45 a.m. ET to see what happens, and email me your thoughts -- from rampant patriotism to darkest fears -- to georgina_turner.si@gmail.com

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  • 2

    USA

  • 2

    Slovenia

  • '

    Pre-game

    A lot of people seemed to lack confidence in Bob Bradley picking the more attacking midfield that this game is begging for, but he has thrown Jose Torres in instead of Ricardo Clark after all. Robbie Findley keeps his place alongside Jozy Altidore though, with Herculez Gomez still on the bench. The Slovenians, however, have altered things up front – Zlatan Ljubijankic coming in for Zlatko Dedic. That switch means less hustle and bustle but a better target for long balls.

    Is it too early to settle the nerves with a quick snifter of something high-percentage?

    USA (4-4-2): Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, Jose Torres, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Robbie Findley.

    Slovenia (4-4-2): Samir Handanovic, Miso Brecko, Marko Suler, Bostjan Cesar, Bojan Jokic, Vlater Birsa, Robert Koren, Aleksander Radosavljevic, Andraz Kirm, Zlatan Ljubijankic, Milivoje Novakovic.

    A quick call for score predictions has come down firmly in favour of a USA win, with 2-1 the scoreline most people fancy. And I’m also assured that it’s not too early to down a drink or two. “May I suggest a dram (or two) of Edradour 10 year single malt Whisky?” enquires Joel. “Smooth to the last drop.”

    Anthems analysis: The Slovenian players sound out of tune, but then I am tone deaf. Couldn't hold a note with a handle on it, me. USA players are doing hands on shoulders again, but not much singing. Several Elvises in the crowd are giving it a good go, though. Oh, and Abe Lincoln. No wonder Donovan's dabbing his eyes.


  • 1'

    Kickoff

    The US kick off and immediately Dempsey plants an elbow on Ljubijankic... Still no play as yet, spot of magic sponge treatment underway.


  • 2'

    Ljubijankic comes back on and exacts revenge by hauling down Torres. Onyewu tries a long ball forward to Altidore, but it's overhit.


  • 5'

    "USA 2-1 Slovenia, Altidore, Dempsey and Koren to score," predicts Mark Schmidt. USA has a corner after Bradley fed Findley in on the left with a beautifully weighted ball.

    ... Donovan can't lift it over the first man. Bright enough start from the US, though.


  • 7'

    Slovenia free-kick into area, Ljubijankic gets his head on it but can only direct it straight up into the air. Howard is giving his defenders a rollicking regardless. Slightly tentative opening exchanges.


  • 9'

    Birsa looks busy on the right and Torres comes back to double up with  Bocanegra. They struggle to keep one cross zipping in, but no one in white gets onto it.


  • 11'

    Birsa's just been given a free-kick on the halfway line for no better reason than that he asked for it. Torres doesn't look entirely comfortable tracking back with him so far.


  • 12'

    Goal

    Goal - Birsa (Slovenia 1-0)

    GOAL! Slovenia is 1-0 up. One of the rare decent shots from outside the area in this World Cup so far. Birsa finds himself in all kind of space about 25 yards out, and just goes for it with his left. Not a lot Howard could do about it.


  • 14'

    Well this gives the US a slight problem, because Slovenia won't be too proud to defend that lead. Donovan takes a free kick from wide on the left that looks like it might just drop down onto an American forehead, but Handanovic is out like a shot and punches the ball clear.


  • 16'

    Ooh, just watching the replays, Dempsey was on that free-kick if Handanovic had been slower. Or Rob Green.

    Findley has absolutely screeched up the pitch, but the ball to Altidore isn't great. Maybe Slovenia will be too proud to defend its lead after all.


  • 19'

    "Torres is in there to be the creative midfielder but he missed a few passes already," notices Fidencio Aguilar. "I like the boy and hope he is not overwhelmed in there." In fairness, only Michael Bradley has really found his passing rhythm so far.


  • 21'

    Donovan makes a burst towards the area, but he's running without options and the ball is easily gathered by the Slovenian defense. "I know we love playing the underdog card," says Jason Parker, rolling his eyes. "But can we please quit giving up early goals?"


  • 24'

    Slovenia is playing with uncanny confidence, given how miserable an experience the win over Algeria was. I'm not sure the US was expecting to have to deal with such speed and invention so early in the game. When the ball is won in midfield, everything's being rushed.


  • 28'

    Possession so far split 54-46 in Slovenia's favour. When Bradley and Donovan combine to get the ball forward, Dempsey's called up for another push as he leaps.


  • 30'

    "USA are going to get a proper pasting here," predicts Kris Callow. "They look nervy and the Slovenians are passing it about quite nicely." They do look comfortable on the ball, so much so that I wouldn't rule out another goal before half-time. It's not hopeless for USA. Bradley might want to shuffle things around at half-time though.


  • 34'

    Slovenia happy to just hold onto the ball for now, and the US is resorting to (wayward) long balls because the fight is well and truly lost in the middle.


  • 36'

    Yellow Card - Cesar

    Yellow card shown to Cesar, who clipped Altidore not far outside the box on the right. Torres takes...

    ... and goes straight for goal! Tried to curl it inside the near post but Handanovic is able to push it away. Audacious but very close.


  • 38'

    "Who did Slovenia defeat in qualifying?" asks Altruistik. They came through behind Slovakia but ahead of Czech Republic, which is pretty good going.


  • 39'

    Yellow Card - Findley

    The Slovenian defense almost gifted USA a goal there - slack touch from Suler lets Donovan in, who puts it wide to Findley but the ball into the box manages to avoid all blue shirts. From the corner, the ball bounces around dangerously, but Findley ends up being booked for handball. He'll miss the next game - good news for everyone emailing me to say Gomez should be playing anyway.


  • 40'

    Almost! That's was maybe four or five inches away from a USA goal! Donovan was on his own at the back stick but Brecko just gets a foot in to divert the ball to safety. Good signs for US.


  • 41'

    Goal

    Goal - Ljubijankic (Slovenia 2-0)

    GOAL! 41': But no! Slovenia scores again!

    The back four lost its shape and Ljubijankic is comfortably onside with only one man close enough to chase him. That's a killer blow before half time.


  • 44'

    Torres is having what scientists call "a mare" in the middle, and if Novakovic had found a better first touch a moment ago, I might be hitting Caps Lock again.


  • 45'

    Halftime

    We'll have two minutes of added time before Bob Bradley can crack the whip. "Prediction," announces Brandon Bandhauer. "World Cup premiere of exotic new formation, the 9-0-1-0." I think the USA would actually prefer to play Slovenia in that formation. The Slovenians aren't following the script! They're actually attacking, still!

    Half-time: It's definitely not too early for a beer now.

    In the last two years, the US has come back from two goals down twice. Against El Salvador in March 2009, and against Costa Rica in October. So how to pull this one out of the bag?

    The trouble for Bradley is that there are already three players who could come off the pitch without being missed, but he won't want to use all his subs so quickly. Torres will continue to cost the US possession in the midfield unless he's paid a divine visit in the next few minutes. Gooch does not look right either, and it was him playing Ljubijankic onside for the second goal. Findley hasn't done a lot wrong, and at least has worrying pace, but he just hasn't done that much right, either.

    "Not being able to watch I'm curious as to how Howard is looking with the injury," asks Colin Crook. "Was the second goal stoppable but injury preventing him from being who he is?" He hasn't looked awkward or uncomfortable in his movement, at least to me. The shot was well placed, low into the far corner, and I don't think he had time to position himself any better.


  • 46'

    Well, Bob Bradley's decided to switch Benny Feilhaber in for Jose Torres, and Maurice Edu for Robbie Findley. The two most urgent substitutions, so full points for effort.

    DeMerit slides in to prevent another quick goal by Slovenia, and immediately the USA gets the ball up to the other end. A bright start.


  • 47'

    Goal

    Goal - Donovan (USA 2-1)

    GOAL! And what a goal it was! The USA is back in it!

    Donovan turned Cesar inside out and upside down, trots into the area and finds himself without an option, so just opts to slam the ball into the roof of the net from an extremely tight angle.


  • 50'

    CLOSE! Donovan free-kick, Dempsey's head and then Gooch's foot about an inch away from making contact.


  • 53'

    USA needs to keep the tempo up for the next 10 minutes or so and crank up the pressure on Slovenia. Edu needs to warm up into the game, too.


  • 56'

    Promising break there - three on three - but Dempsey's ball to Altidore is easily cut out. Slovenia gallop straight down the other end and force Howard into a clearance. This'll be a fantastically open game until the next goal. Anyone care to wager who it'll come from?


  • 58'

    Altidore turns Suler but finds the ball pinched back from right under his foot. "Dempsey," bets Miller Yoho. Another Donovan free-kick...

    ... ugh. Dempsey's pulled up for another wrestling match, this time with Kirm.


  • 62'

    Birsa tests Howard again from a set-piece, but a firm punch settles the dispute. "Do you reckon England is paying attention?" asks Fidencio Aguilar. Definitely. Although finishing first or second is made a more ambiguous gamble by the fact that Germany lost earlier, and looked nowhere near as fine as against Australia.


  • 64'

    Possession is just about even now, but Feilhaber wastes a moment of pressure with a tame sidefooted shot from the edge of the area.


  • 66'

    This game is so tight. Ordinarily I'd be getting to this stage and wondering about the ramifications of this being the final score, but it feels to early here.


  • 68'

    Yellow Card - Suler

    "Gotta be us scoring next," Robert Carrillo says. "These ticky tack calls need to stop going against us though, it's killing the flow of the game." Oh now here's a chance and a half: Suler hauls Altidore over just outside the area, earning himself a yellow card and the US a free-kick.


  • 70'

    Ooh! Donovan drives it in low and hard, it bounces off a few bodies before bobbling to Altidore, who drives it goalwards but straight into the arms of Handanovic.


  • 71'

    "Has Edu done anything constructive since arriving?" asks Brian O'Connor, in Atlanta. Not that I've noticed, so far, Brian, but he did replace Torres, so that's not a great deal lost. Silver linings and all that. Kirm gets a yellow card for sliding in late on Cherundolo.


  • 73'

    Substitutions

    Out: Ljubijankic , In: Nejc Pecnik

    Altidore is making life difficult for the Slovenian defense, but without really causing too much trouble so far. Ljubijankic is substituted off, Nejc Pecnik comes on.


  • 74'

    Yellow Card - Jokic

    The Bizarre Refereeing Hall of Fame is getting crowded today - Altidore getting a talking to for standing in the penalty area and attempting to play the ball. Yellow for Jokic now, who did do something, taking out Donovan.


  • 77'

    What a waste! Patient build up play by US, Altidore lashes a shot from the edge of the area that hurtles well wide.


  • 79'

    "I think we need Gomez for Jozy here," says Mr Carrillo, right on cue. Gomez is getting stripped and ready.


  • 80'

    Gooch is coming off, which is a brave move from Bradley - USA is already practically playing three up front.


  • 81'

    Goal - Bradley (USA 2-2)

    GOAL! It's 2-2! Michael Bradley scores!

    That was a superb goal in magnitude and substance; Altidore nods the ball down into the path of Bradley, who's cantering into the area, and the boss's son lashes it into the top of the net. There are grown men crying in the crowd, and why the heck not.


  • 83'

    I can actually here "USA! USA!" above the vuvuzelas. Wonderful.


  • 85'

    Oh no! Edu had the ball in the back of the net, but the referee had already blown his whistle for another non-existent foul.

    In fact the foul was against Bocanegra, who was being held in a headlock by Suler. Harsh.


  • 87'

    This is one of the best games of the World Cup so far. I realise a win was what the US wanted (and there's still time), but to have swung the game so far the other way given how dominant Slovenia was in the first half... that really is good work.


  • 89'

    Some late pressure from Slovenia, but everybody's back defending. Eventually a handball decision lets the US out.


  • 91'

    "All of a sudden, the officiating in the Germany game looks good," muses Brian O'Connor. "The ref has basically Jim Joyced the US," adds Alex in Morgantown.

    We've got two more minutes. Any nails left to chew?

    


  • 93'

    Long hold up while Pecnik receives attention - Dempsey slid on the ball and his weight slid onto the Slovenian's ankle. Ouch. Komac comes on in his place.


  • 94'

    Fulltime

    And the referee blows his whistle. Michael Bradley is giving him a piece of his mind about that disallowed goal, but overall, this is another 'winning draw'.

    I don't say that lightly, before you dismiss me as a smug England supporter. At half-time, I wasn't sure Bradley would make the kind of changes that seemed to need making, and even when he did, the classy attacking play of the Slovenians in the first half suggested it might not make enough of a difference. We all know how it turned out. There's no doubt that the third goal should have stood, and who knows what the loss of those two points will mean when the group table is drawn up in five days' time. In all likelihood, a decent goal tally against Algeria will still be enough. For now, the manner in which the US came back into the game deserves to be celebrated.


 
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