I have a theory of US performance in group stage tournaments. The US will have one game where they are fantastic, one where they are about average, and another where they are horrible.
US fans have continuously noted the up and down play of the US. In World Cup qualifying the US looked horrible against Costa Rica, but rallied against Honduras. Later they were poor yet victorious aginst Trinidad and El Salvador, before winning against Honduras. This has applied to tournament play as well. This is not a very extensive theory and is only really based off the last 10 years so take it with a grain of salt.
2002 World Cup: Portugal – fantastic, South Korea – solid, Poland – horrible.
2006 World Cup : Czech Republic – horrible, Italy – fantastic, Ghana – average
2009 Confederations Cup: Italy – decent (we did lead at the half), Brazil – horrible, Egypt – fantastic
Now three tournaments does not a solid theory make. But I think there is a bit of an explanation. The US do well when they are counted out, are underdogs, or are playing in very challenging situations (South Korea). Yet when the US are expected to win or are under pressure to win they can struggle.
In my view, we got a good not great performance from the US. While the US played well and stuck to there tactical gameplan, the US as a whole played within themselves – not above themselves. Judging by confederations cup last year, they are capable of more. So if this theory holds true, we are still due for a fantastic game and a bad one.
The US likely needs four points in the next two games, but cruciall they cannot lose to Slovenia. A Slovenia win would put them on six points and would essentially eliminate the US (unless of course England botch it). However, the US will know that it doesn’t have to win, which means the pressure is not as great as it could be.
But if the US struggle, a sign of a quality team is an ability to get a result when things aren’t going well. In World Cup qualification the US continuously did what they had to do and got the needed results when they had to. They will need to do the same in their next two games.