I Didn’t See That Coming

So many talking points after the U.S. came from behind to gain a point in the 2-2 draw with Slovenia:

* The U.S. continues to concede goals early, a glaring deficiency.

* Oguchi Onyewu resembled nothing more than a statue on both Slovenia goals, failing to close down Valter Birsa on the first and keeping Zlatan Ljubijankic onside for the second.

* A lackadaisical first half, seemingly played at half-speed. If you’re starting Robbie Findley and Jose Torres, isn’t the idea to use your pace advantage and move the ball quicker?

bradleyusa

FUUUUUUUUUCK! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

* Bob Bradley’s halftime substitutions. Outstanding. Maurice Edu provided cover in the middle for Michael Bradley (and Onyewu). He wasn’t at his best, but the change allowed the rest of the midfield to push forward. Benny Feilhaber didn’t have as much of an impact, but pushing Clint Dempsey forward gave space to Bradley and Donovan behind the strikers. And Herculez Gomez, desperately on for Onyewu, made a great clearing run on the equaliser. Not to be overlooked is that last change could not have been made without Edu’s versatility, as he effectively moved to centerback after the goal.

* The amazing comeback. Remarkable to come from two down in a Woirld Cup against a defense-first side that only conceded four goals in 10 qualifiers. At half-time, I couldn’t rationalize it.

* The disallowed goal. It’s now being reported the foul was called on the “scorer,” Edu. Bollocks. There’s no replay in the universe that supports that view, but plenty that show four U.S. players being bear-hugged and ball-tickled.

* Unbelievably (and I mean UNBELIEVABLY), the U.S. still has its own destiny in its hands. Beating Algeria by two goals or more puts them into the knockout rounds regardless of the results of the two other group games. That is eminently do-able. If they can manage to not fuck up the first 15 minutes.

I’m of many mixed emotions. A draw with Slovenia is not exactly something to crow about (though, credit to them; they were good and dangerous all day), but the manner in which it was achieved is certainly cause for celebration. The U.S. were literally eight minutes from being 95% out of the tournament. And now they control their destiny. Relief. The probable winner was taken away by a poor decision. Infuriating.

Going into the final group game, a big question will be the lineup. Will Onyewu get another chance? I think so. The only palatable option, one that doesn’t include Jonny Bornstein or Jonathan Spector, is pairing Edu in the middle with Jay DeMerit, but there’s a lack of experience and familiarity there. Findley is out on two yellows, so do you go with Edson Buddle or Gomez up top, or put Dempsey up there from the off and bring in Feilhaber or Stuart Holden? It will be an attacking formation, regardless of personnel. So will Bradley Sr. get it right?

I’m relieved to have five more days to think about it, rather than staring at elimination.

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