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Friday, June 18, 2010
U.S. robbed but still in a good spot

By Cobi Jones
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

Editor's note: Cobi Jones is the all-time leader in appearances (164) for the U.S. men's national team and a three-time ('94, '98, '02) World Cup participant. He was a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy from 1996 to 2007 and is now an assistant coach for the club. He will offer his thoughts before and after every U.S. game.

Jones
Jones

The U.S. tied Slovenia 2-2 on Friday, but it easily could have and should have been a 3-2 victory for the Americans.

The referee definitely made a mistake by disallowing the late goal by Maurice Edu. There's always a lot of pushing and josling in a game like that, and at the key moment you don't call that foul.

Actually, I still don't even know what he called.

At the beginning, I heard it was offsides, then I heard it was Michael Bradley being called for holding the guy. But then you look at it and the other guy is the one grabbing Bradley. Either way there's no justification for that call. The U.S. did get robbed in that situation, and it put the team in a tough spot.

Fortunately, England tied Algeria as well, and the U.S. still has a great opportunity to go forward in its group. I would think the U.S. is in the better position matching up against Algeria in the next match, with England matching up against Slovenia.

As far as Friday's game itself, it was very frustrating to see another typically slow start for the U.S. It's unfortunate that once again this habit continues from the qualifying stages through the World Cup now in the first two games. I hope the players realize they can't afford to do that in the next game. A third tie is going to do them no good.

At the beginning, the team looked a little hesitant, a little bit sloppy and not where you'd want to see a team in the second match of a World Cup. Once again the U.S. were scored upon early and then all of sudden it seems as though the fire gets lit under everybody and they start pushing. But then a second goal goes in, and they're down 2-0 at the half.

Michael Bradley
U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley was the man of the match for his team against Slovenia, as far as Cobi Jones is concerned.

Then all of sudden, they come out in the second half like a team that's ready to show what it can do. For me, the question is what does it take to get the motivation started from the first minute to the 90th minute?

In the locker room at halftime, I'm sure there was a lot of screaming and yelling going on. This is the second game in a row that this has happened. It was probably mostly the players yelling at each other, saying, "Let's get this right, let's sort it out. We've got to get this right. We've got nothing to lose. We've gotta take chances and push forward. Let our defenders defend and our attackers attack."

As simple as that sounds, it's very true and it sometimes gets lost with all the tactics and strategy and everything.

Early in the second half, that was a great goal by Landon Donovan, because it changed the whole tone. To be able to get something in the first 10 or 15 minutes changed the whole mentality of the team that the players could actually push forward and feel confident doing so.

I thought Jose Francisco Torres might get a chance to play and sure enough he started. I thought he had an all-right performance. I don't think it was great. He did have the one strike on goal, but I think we needed more battle in this game, like you saw when Edu came in -- basically someone to get in there, bang a few bodies and push forward.

For me, the man of the match for the U.S. was Bradley. Not only did he score that second goal, but he also picked up a lot of loose balls and created a lot of havoc for the Slovenia midfield. He did a lot of dirty work, as we like to call it.

I don't know the situation personally, but Bradley being the son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley, there's always going to be that little bit of question about why he's there. But he's proven himself on the professional level and on the national-team level. I'm sure he also probably tries a little harder and does that extra work to prove to his teammates that he does belong there.

As far as the two first-half goals by Slovenia, it's the typical breakdowns we've seen of this U.S. team. It's not what you want to see, beginning a game and being down a goal right away. It makes it very difficult to have a chance at winning. If we could keep the other team's scoring to zero, it would be amazing what this team might be able to do.

I knew the Slovenian team liked to bunker in and then counter attack and that's exactly what it did. On the second goal, our defensive line fell asleep for a minute and -- boom -- goal.

Slovenia has no secret as to how it plays. The Slovenians are very clinical in how they implement their plan. They are very deadly when they do get their chances. It's very typical of a European style of play. On our side, we had a lot of chances and we didn't finish. We need that guy who stands out there and just scores goals.

The result with England tying Algeria, 0-0, helps take away a bit of the sting of the goal that was taken away from the U.S. You obviously want to win the game and I'm sure the U.S. players were harping about it right afterward. But then they watch the England game and England ties as well so that puts the U.S. in a bettter position and it might have given the players a sense of relief that maybe things are starting to go their way. Now, if they can get a victory against Algeria next Wednesday, the U.S. is going through to the next round.

Once again, I'm hoping no one on the U.S team is looking at Algeria and thinking that because the team is in last place in the group means it should roll over them. Algeria is obviously a strong squad and will be coming out to get to four points and get through the group. In fact, every team in the group still has everything to play for at this point in time.

Lastly, in the next game, I would love to see someone like an Edson Buddle get a chance to get in there and finish off all those half chances the U.S. had -- someone who's hot and can create opportunities and finish them. That's what the U.S. needs from the start.