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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Justice triumphs: USA defeats Algeria and advances to round of 16

What a game. What a goal. What a feeling. Need we say more? Yes, the US defeated Algeria today and are now poised for a knock-out stage match against the sole African representative left in the tournament--Ghana. Yes, Landon Donovan lit it up once more and made millions of voices scream in unison "gooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaal!" You were probably doing the same. I admit I was also.

The match started with miscommunication between DeMerrit and Bocanegra that nearly marked a goal for Algeria. Alas, the post saved Howard and the national team. As the first half wore on, Bradley's men pushed farther and farther into Algerian territory. Missed opportunities abounded: Gomez, Dempsey, Altidore. There was even a non-existent offsides call on Dempsey that the replay showed to be onside. Robbed again, but this time justice would prevail.

This match had some gutsy calls by Bradley, as he inserted Bornstein for Onyewu and Gomez for the suspended Findley. Bocanegra shifted back into his prefered central position and Bornstein slid into left back. This was a surprising call given Bornstein's inconsistencies and downright liability in that spot sometimes. He has moments of brilliance (stoppage time score versus Costa Rica) but also costly mistakes (El Salvador's first strike in Sandy last year). Granted, Onyewu has shown some lack of awareness in the first two games and could be consider partly-culpable for the Slovenian and English scores. Gomez's inclusion was a bit more perplexing since he is usually more of a supersub. At this point, though, it doesn't matter because the boys got the job done.

The winning goal came in typical American fashion: we had all resigned ourselves to the fact that USA would be knocked out of the tournament even though we hadn't lost. Howard thought different. In the 92nd minute of play (4 minutes added time) he threw the ball quarterback-like to a sprinting Donovan. It was 4 against 2 sprinting towards the Algerian 'keeper. Donovan played the ball right to Altidore, who centered the ball for Dempsey. Dempsey's strike was saved by the Algerian but the rebound was left floating near the penalty spot. Donovan calmly struck it home with placement and control. The US was now up 1-0 and the game would end shortly after.

The simultaneous match between England and Slovenia made for extra nail-biting by USA supporters. A Jermaine Defoe strike during the first half meant England had 5 points and were through to the next round. The USA could not settle for a draw. The score on that game would remain 1-0, and this also meant team USA would win the group thanks to greater amount of goals scored. Oh, they are also undefeated.

Team USA will face Ghana in the round of 16. Not at all an easy match. Remember that this side beat "dark horse contenders" Serbia and nearly tied the heavily-favored Germans. Also, in the only previous meeting between USA and Ghana, the Gold Coast side won the last match of group play in 2006. Ghana went on to the knock-out stage. USA went home. This is a difficult game to decipher. USA has not played a true African team (Sub-Saharan) for some time now. I believe the last one was against South Africa in 2007. Ghana will also have the full support of the continent, city and, likely, the stadium. They are even on paper, however. I can see this going into extra time. After that, we leave the game to our dreams.

We believe.

Player ratings:
  • Howard--------7
  • Bornstein------6
  • DeMerrit------8
  • Bocanegra-----6.5
  • Cherundolo----6.6
  • Dempsey------8
  • Donovan------9
  • Bradley-------8
  • Edu-----------6
  • Gomez--------5.5
  • Altidore------7.5
Subs: Feilhaber (6), Buddle (5.5), Beasley (N/A)

1 comment:

Alastair McCandless said...

Cardiac kids, the heart attack that keeps on giving into the round of 16.