Should the US win tomorrow, it will not only almost assuredly have punched its ticket to the next round, but US soccer will have also demonstrated to the world that its maturation as a soccer power. We know the US can show up in games know one can think it can win, but can it win the games its supposed to?
I think the Slovenes screwed up big time in the mind wars in the lead up to this game. The US were coming in as favorites in the World Cup – an uncomfortable position for the US who have historically in big tournaments done well the underdogs but struggled when the favorites. Because of this, the US players were desperate to note that they weren’t the favorites and that any team that qualifies from Europe must be great.
So in comes Slovenian Andrej Komac to guarantee that Slovenia will win tomorrow. While I admire the brashness, this was exactly what the shrink called for in the run up to the game for the US. Now the US can play as if they are the underdogs, as if they have something to prove.
But more than that the US under Bradley has shown an impressive resiliency. The Yanks have had a number of great comebacks, but have also had some games when they came out slow and tentative, leading many US fans to fret over a Jekyl and Hyde US team and to question which team will show up. However, despite some uneven performances in qualifying the US won when it mattered. They beat Honduras in Chicago after losing to Costa Rica, they won away in Trinidad and vitally clinched their World Cup birth away in Honduras. All games where the US was favored, but where the situation was challenging.
Going into tomorrow the team seems to have a quiet confidence and to understand the need to go at Slovenia. A win can almost assuredly send them through with one game to spare. And while a loss would be disastrous, a draw still puts the US in a good position against a likely already eliminated Algeria.
The big question is how does coach Bob Bradley approach the game. Does put out a more attacking and dynamic midfield that includes the dynamism of Jose Torres or Benny Feilhaber, or does Bradley play it closed to the chest and go with a more defensive midfield with Ricardo Clark and Maurice Edu. The former option will signal that the US is going for it, the latter would signal that the US is concerned about conceding and would be content with a draw. In my view, the US should start with a more attacking approach put Slovenia on the backfoot and if the game stays tied into the second half Bradley could then pull back solidify the midfield in order to ensure the US don’t concede.