What the U.S. has to do to beat Algeria

22 Jun

By all accounts, group C is still open for the taking. Going into the final group games tomorrow, Slovenia is first with 4 points, U.S. second with 2, England third with 2 and Algeria fourth with one.  It’s also a well-known fact that all the U.S. has to do tomorrow is win to advance to the round of 16.  However, a draw could throw things into chaos and a loss would send the team home.  The U.S. should beat Algeria, at least on paper, but they also should have beaten Slovenia too and look how that turned out.  Let’s just go with a win would be the best scenario.  There’s several keys to getting that crucial victory.

First and foremost, the U.S. has to start strong.  They’ve conceded inside 15 minutes in both games this World Cup and they can’t afford to do that again. Although the team thrives on and embraces the underdog role, they won’t/shouldn’t be in that position against Algeria.  The U.S. is the clear favorite to win and they need to put that beyond doubt early.    The U.S. attack is more than capable of making a menace of itself immediately and putting Algeria on the back foot early would do wonders for team confidence.  Can the U.S. actually score first for once?  Interesting concept.

The team also needs better defensive play.  Oguchi Onyewu was culpable for both Slovenia goals last time around and he will be looking to make amends against Algeria.  The U.S. can’t give the Algerians loads of space to work with.  Along with defenders playing smarter, the midfielders also have to do a better job of tracking back to help close down space.  I also expect better from Timmy Howard.  It was clear he had his rib injury in mind on Slovenia’s second goal, going in feet first as opposed to make himself big.  He’ll need to put that completely behind him and go all out against Algeria.

In addition to starting strong, the U.S. needs to play the full 90.  I know I’ve written about this before, but they have yet to do it.  In a crucial game like this, a small lapse could spell the end of the road.  The squad has the ability to play well for 90 minutes, now we just have to see if they can do it for the biggest game of the year.   Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan will be vital to these efforts.  Bradley has been a workhouse through the first two games and I expect more of the same from him.  Donovan will need to influence the game from the get-go.

A few observations/questions too…

  • Who will play up front with Jozy?  Robbie Findley is suspended after yellow card accumulation.  Either Edson Buddle or Herculez Gomez will have a chance to earn their first World Cup start.  Clint Dempsey could also play up top, but he probably won’t, at least not at first.
  • Apparently, the U.S. is 0-6 all-time in game three of the group stages.  Yikes.  Here’s hoping they can turn that stat around.
  • Can the team handle the pressure?  The Yanks beat Egypt 3-0 in the Confederations Cup to advance so they’ve shown they can do it, but the world’s biggest stage is a different story.
  • Defenders Steve Cherundolo and Jay DeMerit are both sitting on yellow cards going into tomorrow’s game.
  • The best result for the U.S. in the England/Slovenia game would be a 0-0 draw.
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