U.S. Rallies To Earn 2-2 Draw Against Slovenia

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (June 18, 2010) – The U.S. Men's National Team played Slovenia to an epic 2-2 draw in its second Group C match at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. After falling behind 2-0 in the first half, an early second-half strike from Landon Donovan and a fantastic finish off a half-volley from Michael Bradley evened the score and earned the USA a critical point before another boisterous pro-U.S. crowd of 45,573 at Ellis Park.

The result puts the USA’s destiny in their own hands, with a win in their final Group C match on Wednesday, June 23, against Algeria at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria automatically earning the Americans a spot in the knockout phase. With Algeria’s 0-0 draw with England in the other Group C match, the U.S. sits in second place in the group tied with the English on two points, but ahead in the standings based on goals scored (three for the United States and one for England). The U.S. can still advance with a draw against Algeria if England loses to Slovenia or if England draws and the U.S. maintains an advantage in total goals scored.

“I think this team has shown that it keeps fighting until the end and we have now had the experience of pushing games when we’re behind,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. “It’s a credit to the mentality of the players and to the fact that they’re going to fight for 90 minutes every game. We have a third match where we still have the chance to determine our ability to move into the final round.”

The USA comeback began just three-minutes into the second half, with a world-class strike from Donovan, who roofed a shot past Slovenian goalkeeper Samir Handanovic from six yards out after dribbling freely into the right side of the box from a tight angle. Donovan was freed into the area on a perfectly placed pass from the halfway line by standout defender Steve Cherundolo that eluded the Slovenian defense.

After several goal mouth chances for the U.S. throughout the half, the USA finally cashed in for goal number two with one of the most skillful tallies in team history. The goal came in the 82nd minute on a lunging half-volley toe-poke from Bradley, who was set-up in the right side of the penalty area, by a perfectly weighted knocked-down header from Jozy Altidore. The big U.S. forward got his head on a service sent by Donovan from midfield and put it right into the path of the charging Bradley. The ussoccer.com Man of the Match scored his eighth career goal, and his first in a World Cup.

The inspiring U.S. comeback could have netted the team all three points just a few minutes later, but Maurice Edu’s volley into the back of the net on a perfect free kick from Donovan in the 85th minute was disallowed by Malian referee Koman Coulibaly for an apparent foul.

Including Edu, four players made their World Cup debuts for the United States in the match. Edu and midfielder Benny Feilhaber were halftime substitutes that helped spark the U.S. attack. Late sub Herculez Gomez and starter Jose Torres also appeared in their first-ever World Cup matches.

For Donovan, the match was his 10th all-time World Cup appearance, moving him to within one game of the all-time U.S. record (11, Cobi Jones and Earnie Stewart), and his goal was the third of his World Cup career (tied with Brian McBride for second best all-time, just one behind Bert Patenaude). He also became the third player in U.S. history to score in two different World Cups (2002 and 2010), joining McBride and Clint Dempsey.

The first half was a difficult one for the United States, who struggled early to break down the compact Slovenians. Slovenia benefitted greatly from a 13th minute goal from Valter Birsa, who hit a perfectly placed strike into the upper right side of the goal from 27 yards out after finding a soft pocket directly in front of the U.S. backline. The shot from Birsa gave goalkeeper Tim Howard no chance.

In the 42nd minute, Slovenia created its second goal on a fast break following some sustained pressure from the United States. On the goal, forward Milivoje Novakovic beat U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu’s offside trap by playing a perfect ball into the run of midfielder Zlatan Ljubijankic, who tucked his shot easily into the center of the goal underneath an onrushing Howard.

Prior to that goal, the U.S. had been all over the Slovenian net. In the 36th minute, Jozy Altidore was fouled at the top of the box on a dangerous U.S. attack, and Torres expertly hit the ensuing free kick to the near post causing Handanovic to make a diving save. On the corner kick that followed that save a clearance by Slovenia was headed tantalizingly close by defender Jay DeMerit from the top of the box but it flew just outside the left post.

Just three minutes later, forward Robbie Findley was given a yellow card after a dangerous U.S. corner kick when he was whistled for a phantom handball on a cross that ricocheted off his upper chest. With two yellow cards in two games, Findley will be suspended for the USA’s final Group C match against Algeria.

Two minutes after that, the USA’s best attack of the first half preceded Slovenia’s fast-break goal. With a nice build-up in midfield, it was Findley who nicely controlled a ball in traffic at the top of the area and found Dempsey overlapping into the right side of the penalty box. Dempsey took one touch and then slid a pass across the goal mouth that was cleared out of play by defender Miso Brecko just before Donovan could tuck it home from the doorstep.

The USA’s second half chances included a 51st minute free kick from Donovan from the left side that was just out of reach for a sliding Onyewu at the far post. In the 70th minute, Altidore was fouled again at the top of the box and Donovan hit a free kick that bounced around before the 20-year old forward turned fired on goal, but Handanovic made a tough save look easy with a confident catch.

The USA's World Cup continues on Wednesday, June 23, against Algeria in Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. The match kicks off at 4 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET) live on ESPN HD and Telefutura, with special pre-game coverage beginning at 9:30 a.m. on ESPN. ESPN Radio and Futbol de Primera Radio will also provide coverage of the game. Fans can also follow along on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker and at twitter.com/ussoccer. 

U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report

Match: United States vs. Slovenia
Date: June 18, 2010
Competition: FIFA World Cup
Venue: Ellis Park – Johannesburg, South Africa
Kickoff: 4 p.m. local time
Attendance: 45,573
Weather: Sunny and dry, 57 degrees Fahrenheit

Scoring Summary:     1     2     F
USA                             0     2     2
Slovenia                        2     0     2

SVN – Valter Birsa                                          13th minute
SVN – Zlatan Ljubijankic (Milivoje Novakovic)    42
USA – Landon Donovan (Steve Cherundolo)     48
USA – Michael Bradley (Jozy Altidore)              82

USA: 1-Tim Howard; 6-Steve Cherundolo, 15-Jay DeMerit, 5-Oguchi Onyewu (9-Herculez Gomez, 80), 3-Carlos Bocanegra; 8-Clint Dempsey, 4-Michael Bradley, 16-Jose Torres (19-Maurice Edu, 46), 10-Landon Donovan; 20-Robbie Findley (22-Benny Feilhaber, 46), 17-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 2-Jonathan Spector, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 11-Stuart Holden, 12-Jonathan Bornstein, 13 -Ricardo Clark, 14-Edson Buddle, 18-Brad Guzan, 21-Clarence Goodson, 23-Marcus Hahnemann
Head Coach: Bob Bradley

SVN: 1-Samir Handanovic; 2-Miso Brecko, 4-Marko Suler, 5-Bostjan Cesar, 13-Bojan Jokic; 8-Robert Koren (capt.), 9-Zlatan Ljubijankic (7-Nejc Pecnik, 74; 20-Andrej Komac, 90+4), 10-Valter Birsa (14-Zlatko Dedic, 87), 17-Andraz Kirm, 18-Aleksandar Radosavljevic; 11-Milivoje Novakovic
Subs not used: 12-Jasmin Handanovic, 16-Aleksander Seliga; 3-Elvedin Dzinic, 6-Branko Ilic, 15-Rene Krhin, 19-Suad Filekovic, 21-Dalibor Stevanovic, 22-Matej Mavric, 23-Tim Matavz
Head Coach: Matjaz Kek

Stats Summary: USA / SVN
Shots: 14 / 7
Shots on Goal: 6 / 4
Saves: 2 / 4
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 18 / 15
Offside: 0 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
SVN – Bostjan Cesar           (caution)         35th minute
USA – Robbie Findley         (caution)         40
SVN – Marko Suler              (caution)        69
SVN – Andraz Kirm             (caution)        72
SVN – Bojan Jokic              (caution)         75

Referee: Koman Coulibaly (MLI)
Assistant Referee 1: Redouane Achik (MAR)
Assistant Referee 2: Inacio Candido (ANG)
Fourth Official: Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh (MAS)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Michael Bradley