Huge Day For US Soccer Wednesday
When the United States soccer team steps on the pitch Wednesday, it will be to play in one of the most important games in its World Cup history. The Americans' run to the final eight in 2002 probably featured a couple of bigger games, but the interest in this year's World Cup is higher than it was in 2002. For the U.S. the scenario is pretty simple – win and advance to the round of 16.
The U.S. should be able to beat Algeria, but as we have seen so many times in this World Cup, the team that should win doesn't always – and sometimes they can't even manage a draw. A draw would give the U.S. some hope, but only if England were to play Slovenia to a low-scoring draw.
The U.S. needs to treat this game as a must-win situation. England should be able to right their ship enough to get a result against Slovenia. If all the U.S. gets is a draw, and England beats Slovenia, then the U.S. is on the outside looking in – even without having lost a match.
Of course, if it wasn't for the highway robbery committed against the U.S. by the referee in the match against Slovenia, the U.S. would be in great shape to advance regardless of tomorrow's outcome. I'm usually not one to be too harsh on the referees in any sport, as we have the benefit of slow-motion, multi-angle replays, but the error against Slovenia was so egregious that I can only think that the referee had made his mind up to blow the whistle and call a foul before the ball was even played into the box.
It seems like the only plausible explanation: The referee had doubts about the foul he just called to set up the U.S. with a free kick in a dangerous spot. There had been a ton of physical play (grabbing, shoving, etc.) on set pieces all day, so he figured he'd call a foul as soon as the ball was kicked. If that ball doesn't end up in the back of the net, then this isn't even discussed after the match. As it was, it was somewhat surprising that there was not a single U.S. player committing a foul, or anything close to one, on the fateful play.
Thankfully, the U.S. had already managed to even the score with Slovenia, and they still control their own destiny. Hopefully, tomorrow, they control the game against Algeria. I'm not overly confident in the Americans' role as favorites going into tomorrow's match. It seems that they almost always play to the level of their competition, and playing down to the level of Algeria tomorrow may not be enough to advance past the group stage.
This much I'm confident in: the weather should not play a big role in the game. It will likely be sunny and 60° for the 4 pm (local) kickoff.