US and Slovenia tie 2-2 Amidst Controversy

Posted: June 19, 2010 in Soccer

Johannesburg, South Africa-

This game was crucial for the United States if they had any hopes for advancing to the round of 16. They could not advance, nor could they be eliminated, but coming out of this game without any points was not an option.

Not to mention, the US was favored going into this match.

Once the game started, the US certainly didn’t seem like favorites. In the 13th minute, Slovenia midfielder Valter Birsa fired a shot on net that sailed over the head of Tim Howard, who was caught too far out of the net, and into the top corner of the goal to give the Slovenians a 1-0 lead.

As was the case against England, back on June 12th, the Americans found themselves in a 1-0 deficit early in the game. Granted, there were still 77 minutes (plus stoppage time) left in the game.

Despite a slow start, the US did begin to show some signs of life in the first half, and they did have some chances.

But just as the Americans came to life, the Slovenians went on the offensive and in the 42nd minute, forward Zlatan Ljubijankic beat Tim Howard after threading the US defense to give Slovenia a 2-0 lead. (Ljubijankic initially appeared to be offsides, but replays showed that he was, in fact, onsides.)

The whistle blew, ending what was easily the worst half of soccer the US has played this World Cup. Changes were going to have to be made, and they were.

Out went Robbie Findley (who will miss the next match after he was given a yellow card, his second of the World Cup, after he was called for an intentional handball. (The ball actually hit him in the face – more about the officiating later)) and in came Benny Fielhaber. Also coming out was Francisco Torres (not to be confused with Spain’s Fernando Torres) and in came Maurice Edu.

Almost immediately, the US started the second half like a whole new team. In the 48 th minute, Landon Donovan dribbled down the field and, from almost the side of the net, blasted a shot into the top of the net to give the US some life.

The Americans were far from finished.

In the 80th minute, Bob Bradley used his final substitution and out came defender Oguchi Onyewu. In his place came Hercules Gomez, perhaps in an attempt to generate more offense for the US.

In the 82nd minute, Michael Bradley, son of US Coach Bob Bradley, was on the receiving end of a tip from Jozy Altidore and buried it into the upper right of the goal to, not only tie the game, but also gave the US a much-needed point, provided they could hold off the Slovenians for the remainder of the game.

The 86th minute wound up being the most memorable minute of the game.

The US was awarded a free kick and Landon Donovan sent the ball into a crowd of players, each player jostling for position as the ball was in the air. Maurice Edu appeared to connect on a great volley from Donovan to give the Americans a 3-2 lead and 3 much-needed points.

However referee Koman Coulibaly (of Mali) blew the whistle after the ball was kicked, although there was not a single replay that showed any penalty against the US. They did show Carlos Bocanegra being held slightly above the shoulders and pulled down and Michael Bradley in a full-on bear hug.  At any rate,  the call was against the US.

What was the call? Nobody knows, Coulibaly never said what the foul was for. He said that he stated what the foul was for when he filled out the match report following the game.

The score remained 2-2 and Slovenia came with one last attempt, which wound up in the hands of Tim Howard, and the game ended in a 2-2 tie.

As for the controversal call, the end of the game was just the beginning of the backlash.

Analyst, and former US team member Alexi Lalas probably said it best: “This ref had a stinker today, from start to finish.” According to a report on SportsCenter, FIFA is going to evaluate this game and could possibly exclude Koman Coulibaly from the remainder of the World Cup.

It may (or may not) sound harsh, but FIFA does have standards for their officials.

At any rate, the US will take on Algeria, who battled to a scoreless draw with England today, on Wednesday (10 am et, ESPN) and, with a win, can punch their ticket to the round of 16 (without having to have any other scenarios take place.)

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