The strategy for the U.S. is simple; win and you’re in. Advancing to the knockout round of 16 looks easy enough on paper, but it will surely be much tougher on the field. The U.S. showed a lot of fight in their last match against Slovenia even though they fell behind 2-0 just before halftime. But after the teams came back onto the field after the half, Landon Donovan provided the U.S with a much-needed lift. Donovan ran down a ball placed just outside the 18, took it straight to the goal and blasted it past Slovenian goalkeeper Samir Handanovic just a few minutes into the second half. The equalizer came in the 82nd minute when Michael Bradley finished a perfect header from Jozy Altidore and put it in the back of the net.
Then came the play people will be talking about for years. After the U.S. earned a free kick, Donovan placed a beautiful ball to Maurice Edu, who volleyed it in the back of the net for what would’ve been the clinching goal. But then came that God-awful whistle. The whistle that brought blank looks and confused faces along with a disallowed goal that would have almost surely put the U.S. through to the round of 16. But instead, the U.S. find themselves in a must-win game against Algeria on Wednesday.
Much like the game against Slovenia, the U.S. will be favored against the Algerians and should, key word being should, win. Algeria currently has one point to their name after losing to Slovenia 1-0 and tying England 0-0. Judging from their first two performances in the 2010 World Cup, it’s pretty safe to say that Algeria isn’t going to go down without a fight. Their current club is one that has a lot of question marks, but also has the makings to pull off the big upset depending on which team shows up.
Algeria doesn’t have a lot to brag about when you look at their club as a whole. They play with a calm pace and are able to move the ball up and down the field very effectively, but don’t have anything special that will really spark your eye. The only danger, fundamentally, that may cause the U.S. problems is their defenders attack the goal very well. That is, assuming they stay in their 4-4-2 formation and don’t fall into their 3-5-2 look, which was the cause for their embarrassing 3-0 loss to Malawi in their opening game of the African Cup of Nations. Of course, Algeria is expected to bring a better effort against the U.S. considering they are playing the spoiler role and could crush any hopes for the Americans making it to the round of 16.
The U.S. needs to avoid yet another slow start if they want to win this game. They cannot keep coming back from deficit after deficit and expect to get anywhere in this tournament. Yes, they’ve done it twice already in this World Cup, but it’s very tough to keep coming from behind game after game. They just need to calm down and play their game for all 90 minutes. They have the skill, they have the talent and they surely have the fight. Now, let’s see if they have the killer mentality to put a team away that they should put away and advance to the next round.
Submitted by Steve Giles