Update, 11:52 a.m.: THE USA WINNNS!! THE USA WINS! AMAZING! ARGUABLY THE BIGGEST DAY IN THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN SOCCER! We booked our ticket to the next round with style and pride–I’m so proud of this group of players, who pushed the whole game and finally beat the referees, who seemed to want to disallow everything. Bill Clinton is whooping and hollering; Tim Howard and Jozy Altidore are weeping. We played an incredibly good match today, clearly outplayed the Algerians from the first whistle–and we finally broke down the catenaccio because, incredibly, the Algerians got caught on the break. Landon’s weeping in the interview. What a day for American soccer, for American sports, and for the country in general. Amazing. Words cannot describe the elation that the Americans must be feeling right now.
Man of the Match: Gotta be men of the match–Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore. Jozy set up every attacking set for the Americans in this game, constantly a source of attacking threats. And what to say about Donovan? Scores the game winner in minute 91. Not much more to say about that. Incredible.
9:30 a.m.: Welcome! Lots of pre-game news today, starting with starting lineups: Oguchi Onyewu has been left out of the lineup for the United State–Jonathan Bornstein will start in his place. Hercules Gómez will start for the suspended Robbie Findley. Bocanegra will move into the center of the defense, his preferred position, as Bornstein will slot into the wing–the New York Times calls this a “smart move because Bornstein has the speed to defend Algeria’s fast flank attackers.” We’ll see.
USA (4-4-2):Howard; Cherundolo, DeMerit, Bocanegra(c), Bornstein; Donovan, Bradley, Edu, Dempsey; Altidore, Gomez.
Algeria (3-4-1-2): Mbolhi; Bougherra, Halliche, Yahia(c); Kadir, Yebda, Lacen, Belhadj; Ziani; Matmour, Djebbour.
9:40 a.m.: Matchups to Watch: Interestingly, experts have picked out a huge variety of individual matchups to watch during the game, so I’m going to go ahead an break it down for you: if we concede early again, this game will be pretty tricky to win, because we will play against the catenaccio, or “door bolt” defensive scheme. The Algerians play it when they think they have to, and they do it well, as evidenced by their last game against England.
If we don’t concede early the important tactical maneuvers to follow will center on space: is Algeria giving Donovan/Dempsey/Altidore space to maneuver and to create? Or are they shutting down the passing lanes and putting bodies on the American playmakers–and if they are, is the referee calling the fouls? Because remember, physical shut-down defending lives and dies on the referee’s whistle, and if there’s a tight ref, then a defensive style won’t work as well–especially the catenaccio.
It will also be interesting to see if Bornstein can really run with the Algerians, especially the midfielder from Olympique Lyonnais (and now Portsmouth), Nadir Belhadj, arguably the most impressive and tactically skilled “desert fox.” Bornstein has been criticized in the past for not stepping up in big moments, but Bradley wanted his speed over “Gooch’s” aerial defensive prowess today–we’ll see if that was the right call.
9:45 a.m.: Back to Pretoria: Alexi Lalas reminds us all that Nadir Belhadj will be a lot to handle today, and questions whether Landon Donovan will be given defensive responsibility for the Pompey man. Chris Fowler reminds us that people in the US are watching the game–thank you Chris. Good for all the people at the bar in Seattle–it’s gotta be like 6:45 a.m. over there.
9:50 a.m.: Martin Sheen reminds us that if we and England both win then we’re both in; he begins to recap the USA’s tournament, asking rhetorical questions like “who would you like to have calling your shots?” and begins to criticize England brutally, saying things like “while we’re the US, you can call us “us”; England, however, has appeared to turn on their team.” What the hell? Seems weird to be so brutal with England for no real reason…
9:52 a.m.: Players in the tunnel–here we go! Algeria vs. USA; both have to come out to win, so hopefully we’ll see a good, open game.
Oh, and Algeria hasn’t scored yet in this group.
9:54 a.m.: OH SAY CAN YOU SEE?
9:56 a.m.: Our friend @thevuvuzelahorn reminds us “ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.” Thanks dude.
9:57 a.m.: GAME TIME. LET’S GO BOYS!
9:58 a.m.: Referee is Belgian Frank de Bleckere, who I remember well from the European Champions league. He’s a good ref, but will let the players play generally–at least in my experience, which could be good or bad for the US.
1′) Yikes. Already a big shot from Algeria, sails high off the volley from distance. We need to shut that kind of move down.
2′) Better. Good run down the left side by Donovan, leads to nothing as Algeria collects his cross. Good defense that time on the break from the States.
3′) Algeria is pressing hard in the early going, as Bornstein does well to get back and get the cross out–Gomez is taken down on the break, and the US will restart from the back. Worrying statistic: the US is 0-6-0 in third group stage games. Lets change that today, OK?
5′) Good from Edu, whose feed into Donovan is hastily cleared by the Algerian defense, who’re rocking a light lime-green kit today.
6′) HHHUUUUUUUUUYYYYYYY!!!! ALGERIA OFF THE POST!!!!! JAY DEMERIT WITH A HOWLER, BUT THE ALGERIANS LET US OFF THE HOOK.
6′) GOMEZ ON THE OTHER END!! NO!! Great stuff from Gomez who almost catches Mbolhi sleeping.
7′) Come on guys! We really can’t let another one in early–not today. That defensive misstep almost cost us the lead.
8′) Dempsey! Nope. And another mistake from the American defense, as Cherundolo totally misfires with a clearance. Yikes. England 0-0 Slovenia so far.
10′) Throw in to Algeria, as Jozy loses it out of bounds–he’s the youngest striker to start at the World Cup, and he looks better, having recovered from his stomach virus.
11′) Better from Cherundolo. Tense minutes for the American defense, as Jozy takes the ball out of the back and is leveled by Yebda. Yellow Card well deserved for the Pompey midfielder.
12′) We’ve come out a bit stiff, tense, and the Algerians have looked like the more dangerous team–well, not there, as Yebda takes a silly long-distance shot.
14′) Good from Donovan on the flank, but Belhadj is up to it. Good play from both of them, as Altidore’s cross is stopped by Mbolhi.
15′) Tim Howard screaming and yelling at our defenders after we allow another long distance shot. Cut to a shot of Bill Clinton with Sepp Blatter–hello, Mr. President.
16′) Lots of shots from distance from Algeria. And now one from Gomez–a flying scissor-kick in the area: good take there.
17′) Donovan! No!! Big shot from distance from the LA Galaxy star, though Clint Dempsey was screaming for it. [[ENGLAND!! No.]]
18′) If results hold: USA and Slovenia advance, with USA as second in the group.
19′) Possession lost there for Algeria, who’ve been hanging on to the ball in the midfield.
20′) GOOOOAL–NOOOOOOO! DISALLOWED!! DEMPSEY PUSHES GOMEZ’S SHOT INTO THE NET, OFFSIDE!! OH MY! I’d love to see the replay on that.
21′) Close-up of Dempsey’s face, mouths “not again.” Lets hope not–Clinton looks worried.
22′) ENGLAND HAVE SCORED! JERMAINE DEFOE SCORES AFTER A BEAUTIFUL CROSS. The USA has to win now.
23′) Oh, COME ON! CLEARLY NO OFFSIDE ON THE AMERICAN’S GOAL. GODDAMNIT.
24′) Good defense by Demerit on that cross–looking better now, after the tough start.
25′) If the updated results hold: England classifies first, Slovenia second. We need to score.
27′) Better defense from the US, as the commentators deride the officials. Let’s save that for the end of the game, OK?
29′) A little more space for the USA, though Algeria looks strong on the counter attack, with Belhadj constantly diving into open space. Good game so far from both teams.
31′) Yikes. Good defending from the Americans, but the Algerians are pushing really hard right now. England looks very good in their match as well–I just flipped over for a second, and Defoe/Gerrard had a very good chance.
32′) Commentators still talking about the bad call on the goal. Great cross to the back post, the deflection falls to DONOVAN!! UYY! Totally miss-hit that. Too bad, looked promising.
34′) Better! The Americans have gotten a couple of pretty good offensive sets in, but have run up against “the green wall.” Very fast play right now. DEMPSEY!!! UYYYY!!! His shot runs right into Mbolhi! So close for the Americans.
35′) Lots of drama in Pretoria. We’re lacking luck right now–and as we learned from many classic movies, it’s better to be lucky than good.
36′) AHHHHHHHH HOW DID WE MISS THAT! ALTIDORE AND DONOVAN BOTH WENT FOR THE SAME BALL AND SKIED IT OVER AN OPEN NET! Incredible–great play to get there, but awful finishing in front of net for the States.
37′) UUUYYY! Great shot from distance by Matmour sets up an Algerian corner. Comes to nothing.
40′) Offside on Kadira–close, didn’t look offside to me, but the play was stopped before anything could develop.
41′) Good idea from Dempsey, who couldn’t quite feed Altidore through the middle. Good shot from Dempsey that swerved around.
42′) HUYYYYY! ZIANI! We can breathe again, as Ziani’s shot barely whistles over.
43′) Great from Demerit! Shuts down Belhadj with a great tackle, sets up a shot from Bornstein–terrible, skies wide.
45′) Bradley’s flick on can’t find anyone at the back post. One minute of stoppage.
45’+1) YIKES! Great ball from Algeria to the back post, just missed. HALFTIME. We need a goal. That’s all that matters. Let’s do it boys.
Benny Feilhaber comes in for Hercules Gomes. Should provide some depth in midfield, suggests that the Gomez gamble didn’t really work out.
46′) Good run from Bornstein down the left flank; play comes to Donovan, whose cross can’t quite make it–MATMOUR ON THE OTHER SIDE!! OFFSIDE. Wow, defense looked caught out there.
47′) We look strong so far, but Algeria is very capable of surprising us at any moment. Free kick to USA, but Dempsey is shut out from the ball.
48′) We’re going to need something special to beat this Algerian team–they look really well composed in the back, even if their offense has been mediocre so far.
50′) Not much was made on TV of Algeria’s last corner, but to me that looked REALLY bad for the US–Algeria got a head on it, AND Demerit could’ve been called for a penalty for hanging on a jersey like that. Watch out guys.
51′) Algeria gets another head on the ball in the area, but can’t keep the ball down. Yikes.
54′) Not much happening right now, as possession has been switching over and over again–Ziani loses the ball wide.
56′) Good work from Bornstein to keep the cross from coming in; great defense by Bradley…ball to Altidore…DEMPSEY!!! OFF THE POST!!! MISSES THE REBOUND! AAAHHHHH!!! AGONY FOR THE USA!!!!!! HOW’D HE MISS THAT!!!!!
57′) When will this damn ball go in?
59′) Good play by Demerit to stop the Algerian break–we look the better team right now, but again, no luck right now, and it’s better to be lucky than good. Good, threatening American attacks so far.
60′) Weird to see a team playing catenaccio with a 3-4-1-2; Altidore gets a Yellow Card for a late tackle.
62′) HUYYY! Great defense from Bocanegra after a beautiful counter attack from Algeria.
63′) Edison Buddle in for Maurice Edu. Let’s go!
64′) FEILHABER!! Great feed from Buddle, but Feilhaber can’t get the ball through Mbolhi.
66′) Fantastic thrown beyond the halfway line from Tim Howard–the US needs to slow this game down, we’re letting Algeria dictate the game right now.
67′) England 1-0 Slovenia still.
67′) OOOHHHHHHHHH MY! NOOOOOO! NEITHER BUDDLE NOR ALTIDORE CAN GET THE BALL IN THE NET! Perfect cross, wonderful save; HUGE BREAK FOR ALGERIA!!! NO!!! ZIANI CAN’T SLOT IT AWAY!
69′) We can’t buy a goal right now–no love for the Americans.
70′) ALMOST AN OWN GOAL FROM ALGERIA! Corner to the Americans. Wow, that almost fixed all our problems.
72′) Long shot from Yebda, we can go ahead and let them take that shot.
73′) Free kick on the edge of the box for the USA as Jozy Altidore get taken out. Come on Landon!
74′) UGH. Ball comes off Michael Bradley’s head. Nothing doing.
75′) Jozy’s down. Let’s hope it’s not serious–YUCK! That lucked intentional on the replay–very late “challenge” there.
76′) Comes off Dempsey’s head…Jozy’s fine, though.
77′) Free kick to USA right outside the box. Landon will have another shot.
78′) BRADLEYYYYYYY! NO! Great shot from Michael, punched out by the keeper. Another corner for the Americans, as Algeria’s defense looks very strong.
79′) Last 10 minutes: lets see if the USA can break down the catenaccio. AND IN COME DEMARCUS BEASLEY for Bornstein. Good substitution there, bringing on the speedy winger for the left back. High drama.
81′) Dempsey’s gotten elbowed in the face. Should be a straight red. Unfortunately, it was off the ball and the referees missed it.
82′) JOZY TAKEN OUT ON THE BREAK. Professional foul there, but way harder than normal–Yellow Card. Free kick.
83′) HIGH FROM DEMPSEY. Tough.
84′) It’s pretty late in the game–we really need to push here, as Algeria subs in Saifi for Matmour.
85′) Big dive from Belhadj on the break–nothing doing. Algeria looks strong on the break.
86′) We’ve been crushing it so far this game but can’t get that tiny bit of luck to get the ball in the goal–very proud effort from the Americans, but heartbreaking to say the least.
88′) Foul on Demerit who had won back possession. This one is ending… COME ON BOYS GODDAMNIT!
89′) WHY’S DE BLECKERE GIVING A YELLOW CARD TO BEASLEY? What? 4 minutes of stoppage.
90’+1) GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL! LANDON DONOVAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!! INCREDIBLE!!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!!!!! USA QUALIFIES FOR THE NEXT ROUND IN STOPPAGE TIME!!! AMAZING!
90’+3) RED CARD TO YAHIA FOR PROTESTING. De Bleckere is having none of that.
90’+4) GAME OVER!!! USA WIIIIIIIIIIIINNNS! WE WIN THE GROUP! UNBELIEVABLE ENDING!! LISTEN TO THE VUVUZELAS!! THE PLAYERS EMBRACE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD! PLAYERS ARE WEEPING!! USA TOPS GROUP C!