The United States Men’s National Team enters Wednesday’s clash against Algeria looking for its first win of the tournament. The US has more than a couple of ways of advancing to the knockout stage of the tournament even if they draw against Algeria. Simply put, win and the Americans are in. The three points up for grabs is crucial for both teams. Group C does not feature a team guaranteed to progress nor is there a team already eliminated. Group leader, Slovenia, could still miss out on the round of 16 with a loss to England coupled with an American win. That scenario would have the US and England advancing with the tie breaker for the top spot being goal differential. Enough of the confusing stuff. Let’s get to the preview of US/Algeria.
The United States finally showed positive offensive movement during the match against Slovenia. US maestro, Landon Donovan seemed to be in all the right places during the furious comeback. It was Donovan that opened the surge just a couple of minutes removed from the restart. Donovan’s rocket of a shot began the big push for the American attack and electrified the crowd behind the US. With Robbie Findley out, it will be interesting to see who Bob Bradley starts alongside of resurgent striker, Jozy Altidore. The US will no doubt miss the speed of Findley, however, the versatility of Donovan and Dempsey allows Bradley some wiggle room at striker. Look for the possible introduction of Stuart Holden if Dempsey or Donovan moves up top. The combination could lead to some serious speed on the flanks of the American attack. The back line of the Americans need to step it up if they have any hopes of advancing. Oguchi Onyewu looked slow and hesitant during the first half. The pace and flow of the game during the second half meant little time on the ball for Slovenia’s strikers. Perhaps the introduction of Maurice Edu to replace Onyewu or alongside Michael Bradley would provide a bit of cover for the defensive line. Edu played admirably after entering the previous match and surely deserves consideration against Algeria. The United States will win if the goal scoring touch of the front line continues and the Americans can figure out a way to plug the leak that is the back line.
Algeria enters the final group stage match needing a win and some help in order to advance. A gritty nil-nil draw against England surely has raised spirits and expectations. Algeria seemed to frustrate England with their tough defense and ball controlling attack. It really is a telling sign when highlights of the match feature just a few saves needed by the Algerian keeper. On that note, keeper Rais Bolhi made just his second international appearance during his clean sheet against the Three Lions. Bolhi had a tremendous save that stymied a wicked shot from Frank Lampard. The save seemed to set the tone for the Desert Foxes as they played smothering defense and bottled up all-world striker, Wayne Rooney. So far the Algerian attack has not done much to threaten opposing goals. Algeria has so far failed to score in this World Cup. Algeria will win if they get another superb effort from the back line and catch the American defense napping.
On paper, the Americans have the superior talent and should progress without much concern. However, this tournament has thrown conventional wisdom out the window and featured herculean efforts by the underdogs. Look for both teams to come out tentative for the first quarter of an hour and turn up the intensity from then on. The Americans should be able to attack the flanks of the Algerian back line and look for Jozy Altidore to post up in the box and distribute. Expect a big game from Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. The US wins 2-0 and gets the top spot out of the group.
Don’t forget to follow Desperate America on Twitter for live match tweets and come back here for the post game wrap-up!