The rising American national team performed admirably yesterday, not only for coming back from a 2-0 deficit and apparently winning the match, but for the attractive game the players put together in doing so. Surely the Americans gained supporters and respect around the world yesterday with their pace, spirit and determination. They never stopped running, kept pressing with a tremendous physical effort even after the equalizer, and made the 10,000 jubilant Americans in the stadium and everyone at home proud to say the least.
The controversy? Yes, the referee got it wrong. But the American team might have gained something greater than all three points in play. Yesterday another generation of young soccer players was inspired and moments like this are few and far between. It was a wonderful match for the audience, possibly the best action of the tournament thus far. Slovenia’s second goal came against the run of play, as USA had just missed a golden chance at the other end. Even at 2-0 down, the confidence to get back into the match was not eroded. Landon Donovan’s goal was critical because it came so early in the second half, bringing the possibility closer, lifting every American player. Dempsey, Altidore, Donovan and especially Michael Bradley covered enormous distances during the match, keeping the pressure on a Slovenian team that has been very efficient in both of its matches.
Altidore’s physical presence was enormous for the USA, as were Donovan’s incursions on the right flank. Coach Bradley also made the correct changes, most impressively for embracing an attacking game throughout. He trusted inexperienced offensive players with big responsibilities and they responded well. All in all, not the three cherished points and a big task ahead against a very solid Algerian team on Wednesday, but yesterday’s performance was a memorable one for USA soccer no matter what happens next.