We’re less than an hour from kickoff of the biggest game in eight years for USA Soccer. Thanks to professional referee and part-time dickbag Kouman Koulibaly, the U.S. needs a win to advance, or else they have to rely on Slovenia to beat or tie England. The U.S. is certainly favored, however, and a win is exactly what they should get. But few things are ever easy with this team, and today should be no different.
Algeria plays a very unique style with basically no strikers, three defenders, and a shit ton of midfielders, especially on the wings. Their strategy gave England fits, as the Three Lions were constantly struggling to get possession of the ball in an outnumbered midfield. Despite Algeria’s organized and cerebral tactics, they lack an attacking approach and have yet to score in the tournament. But, despite having just one point so far, Algeria can still advance with a win and some help, so they’ll likely be attacking the goal significantly more than they have in past games.
The hope from the U.S. standpoint is that Algeria played their best game of the tournament already against England. Algeria are very inconsistent and can become unraveled if frustrated, as shown by their psychotic four red cards in their past six international matches. If feisty players like Michael Bradley, Mo Edu, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey can get under the Algerian’s skin, the U.S. could see an advantage develop in set piece opportunities, where they excel.
Tactically, the U.S. will have to be very strong on the wings and look to funnel the Algerians into the middle of the field. This burden will fall on Dempsey and Donovan in the midfield and Steve Cherundolo and Jonathan Bornstein, the fullbacks. Bornstein has a knack for blowing it in big games and is easily the most frustrating player on the U.S. roster, but he has the physical skills to hold his own on the right side. Bornstein is playing for the first time today because Bob Bradley has replaced CB Oguchi Onyewu with usual right back Carlos Bocanegra, who can also play in the center. As great as Onyewu is, it’s clear that he’s still not back into form after missing most of the season with a knee injury. Both goals in the Slovenia game were a direct result of Onyewu’s missteps and in the end, he didn’t leave much of a choice for Bradley.
If the U.S. goes down a goal in the second half, look for Maurice Edu to drop back to defense in place of Bornstein so that an attacking midfielder like Stuart Holden or Benny Feilhaber can come on. With a little luck, this won’t be an issue. Offensively, the U.S. just has to do what it does best, counter attack and use their speed and passing to their advantage. Of all the players the U.S. has fielded so far, the much-heralded Altidore has been the biggest disappointment by far. Jozy has to show the form displayed against Spain last summer if the U.S. has any chance of advancing further in the tournament.
Finally, the U.S. MUST come out strong and not give up an early goal for once in their lives. They showed in the second half of the England and Slovenia games that they are capable of playing great defense, they now need to do it for 90 minutes. If they can force Algeria into tough shots and limit their breakaways, there is little doubt that the U.S. will win and advance.
So, C’MON FELLAS. Win this thing for America. Do it for George Washington. Do it for Teddy Roosevelt. Do it for FREEDOM.
Update: Here’s all the motivation you need: http://withleather.uproxx.com/2010/06/with-leathers-totally-unbiased-preview-to-algeria-vs-u-s-a-u-s-a