The United States treated their opening game tie versus England as a win. The United States wasn’t favored in the game and England is considered the class of the opening round group. Meanwhile, Slovenia won their first game to lead the group with three points after their victory over Algeria. The plan for both England and the United States was for both of them to beat up on Slovenia and Algeria to advance out of group play. At the same time, Slovenia is considered somewhat dangerous and would certainly have other ideas. So, while the United States were favored today, it wasn’t totally inconceivable to have Slovenia score first early, which they did against a notoriously slow-starting United States team.
Valter Birsa broke the 0-0 tie at about the 13 minute mark with a wide open 25-30 foot shot. It bent past Tim Howard’s left and into the back of the net. It was a goal given up by the defense as Birsa had all day to line up his shot. The United States really were on their heels to start the game, and they paid the price by going down early for the second straight game.
At 36 minutes Jozy Altidore drew a foul and Jose Torres put the shot on goal at the near post. The Slovenian goalkeeper made a solid save to give the United States a corner. They failed to do anything on the corner, but Torres’ shot was a well-struck ball that gave the United States their first legitimate scoring opportunity.
That opened the opportunity floodgates for the next few minutes and then Slovenia countered to break the game open 2-0 at the 42 minute mark. Zlatan Ljubijankic stayed onside, got a through ball and easily scored past a diving Tim Howard. To go down 2-0 in the first half was brutal. The television announcers were quick to point out that the United States hasn’t won after giving up the first goal in the last 18 games. No need to go to statistics to find out about what happens when the United States goes down 2-0 to end the first half.
At the 47 minute mark in the second half, Landon Donovan streaked down the right side past a sliding defender and went straight at the near post. The keeper was there, but Donovan wouldn’t be denied. He plastered the ball high, improbably putting the rocket over the goalkeeper’s head. The keeper actually ducked his head as the ball blistered past. The United States needed a fast start to the half if they had any chance of coming back, and team leader Landon Donovan did just that.
The action middled through most of the second half until finally in the 81st minute, the United States scored an amazing goal with coach’s son Michael Bradley finishing. Donovan made a great cross to Jozy Altidore who got a head on it inside the Slovenia box where Michael Bradley was waiting to smash it home past the Slovenian goalkeeper. The United States had tied it up 2-2 with about 10 minutes to go in the game. It was a glorious comeback for the United States who wouldn’t be satisfied with just tying it. They remained aggressive after the goal. Their aggressiveness should have been rewarded, but the referee had as bad a second half as the United States had in the first half.
The United States scored what should have been a game-winning goal in the 85th minute. I am still unsure whether offsides was called, or a penalty was called, but Michael Bradley was fouled on the play as a Slovenian player had him in a bear hug. Despite this, the United States scored, but unbelievably, it was disallowed. Regardless the game would remain 2-2 with both teams furiously attempting to get a third goal.
The game would finish 2-2 with Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley chasing down the head referee to give him a talking to that would have made Miguel Cabrera and Jim Joyce blush. The United States would have done well to come back and tie the game under normal circumstances, but they won the game. The United States scored a legitimate goal and they were flat out screwed by officiating so poor that it is a disgrace to the word embarrassment.
Regardless, the United States finish the day with 2 points in the group standings, while Slovenia has 4. England and Algeria play later in the day with England looking to go from 1 point to 4 points with a win, and Algeria looking to get their first points of the tournament. The best the United States can hope for is a draw between Algeria and England later in the day.