Can Team USA Do It?
The U.S. badly needs a win against Algeria to assure the team’s spot in the World Cup’s next round
For the United States, staying in the World Cup soccer tournament may come down to beating Algeria. The two teams will square off Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET. Anything less than a win could mean a quick exit for the Americans.
Landon Donovan and the rest of Team USA are expected to defeat the Algerians. But then, they were supposed to defeat Slovenia last Friday as well. Instead, the United States almost lost. The U.S. team escaped from that game with an exciting 2-2 tie.
In the first half, Slovenia went up 2-0. That is a solid lead in soccer. Things looked bad for the Americans. The U.S. had tied its first game against England, so a loss to Slovenia would have meant an 0-1-1 record. That would have made it very hard to stay in the tournament.
Donovan launched the U.S. comeback. Three minutes into the second half, he rocketed the ball past the Slovenian goalie. He shot from an almost-impossible side angle. Then when the game was almost over, Michael Bradley scored the equalizing goal.
Just three minutes later, midfielder Maurice Edu kicked what appeared to be the game-winning U.S. goal. American players danced around with joy. It appeared that they had pulled off a great comeback victory.
But referee Koman Coulibaly disallowed the goal. He said U.S. players had fouled on the play. Replays showed only Slovenian players committing fouls. American players and fans were furious. But referees are powerful in soccer, and World Cup refs are not required to explain their decisions. Coulibaly will not referee in the next round of World Cup games.
Despite their disappointment, American players say they were thrilled to have tied Slovenia. "My guess is there's not many teams in this tournament that could have done what we did and arguably won the game," Donovan said. "And that is what the American spirit is about."
PATH TO VICTORY?
However, the U.S. badly needs a win to stay in the World Cup. A tie against Algeria could still allow the Americans to advance to the second round called the knockout stage. For that to occur, England would have to lose to or tie Slovenia. If both of Wednesday's games end in ties, the U.S. would need to have more total goals than England. The only sure path to the second round is a win against Algeria.
Goalkeeper Tim Howard remains confident of a U.S. victory. He believes this team does best when its back is to the wall. "It seems like we play better when we're emotional," he says.
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