I don’t know much about soccer or this silly little tournament that’s going on, but word is this is a pretty big match. Apparently the Yanks can win the group, qualify for the next round by finishing second, or fail to advance altogether. Who knew!?
Before we get to the match preview itself, here’s a quick reminder of the possible scenarios we’re dealing with:
Yanks lose – The nil-nil result between the Desert Foxes and the Three Lions was the best result the U.S. could have hoped for, but we still can’t lose. Loss = See ya back in The States boys.
Yanks draw – A draw will only see us through if England loses or ties while failing to makeup the two more goals that we’ve put up (goal differential will be the same between the two countries so the tie breaker will go to total goals scored). If we draw and get lucky enough to go through, we take second and Slovenia takes the group.
Yanks win – I like this scenario the best because it ensures that we go through and gives us a shot at winning the group outright. Convenient huh? If we get this result and Slovenia wins we take second place. If the Green Dragons tie the English it’s down to goal differential and possibly goals scored between us and Slovenia to decide who wins the group (they currently stand one goal ahead of us on differential with the same number of goals scored). Should England win, we’re also down to goal differential and possibly goals scored to decide who takes the group.
The Desert Foxes
First off, Algeria’s nickname makes them sound like a special forces unit that might have been used in the first Gulf War. Thankfully, they’re not coached by General Norman Schwarzkopf or we’d be screwed for sure. As it is, and as you’ve probably gathered, they’re not pushover. The only goal they’ve conceded this World Cup has been due to a goalkeeper gaff (remind you of anyone old chap?), meanwhile our beloved USMNT have allowed three bad goals complete with defensive miscues and/or breakdowns. Thankfully, along with the silly dancing Slovenians we’re the offensive juggernauts of Group C right now, so something’s got to give.
The way Algeria managed to shutdown England and Slovenia in spite of the fluke goal was by placing a priority on tracking back and playing team defense based more on “want to” than outstanding positioning or great technical ability. Left back Nadir Belhadj gets forward more often than the actual left sided midfielder and the team always seems to compensate and shift to cover his absence in case of turnover and counter attack. This could leave a midfielder to deal with Donovan, Dempsey, or Holden, but against England the Algerians provided great help defense both on and especially off ball. Glasgow Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra is the team’s best no nonsense defender, and he is not easily broken down. Add to the mix a newly capped goalkeeper who looked like a veteran leader in the last game, and the Yanks will have their work cut out for them if they want to score goals.
Then again, the pundits aren’t completely off base when they compare Algeria to the Egypt team we slammed in the Confederations Cup. They’ve been far less adventurous going forward than that team which threw caution to the wind in its folly-filled quest to score goals, but the players have similar skill sets, and the Foxes may just have to change their mindset if they want to try and qualify. This could work in the favor of American interests.
Danger men going forward then?
Well Bobbo’s boys will absolutely have to account for the aforementioned Belhadj and more importantly the ever dangerous Karim Ziani. Belhadj often starts the Algerian attack with his long forward runs up the left wing, but Ziani is the biggest threat to convert those chances into goals, either through shots of his own or clever passes following treacherous runs in and around the box. When Ziani is at his best forward Matmour (pronounced just like the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback) doesn’t have to do much to score goals. The Yanks should be wary of Belhadj and Matmour, but Ziani should be marked for 90 plus minutes.
Well we know that Robbie Findley won’t be getting a start, he’s suspended. That’s actually fine because I don’t think he was ever going to be tapped to start this particular game anyway. I have a feeling we’ll see Clint Dempsey up front with Altidore to start the game, Herculez eventually coming in to spell either one of them or a midfielder whose spot Dempsey can slide back into.
As far as the midfield goes conventional wisdom would put Holden on the right flank with Landon on the left. MB90 continues in the middle, and after a great second half by Maurice “That wasn’t a goal?!” Edu, the Maryland product gets his first shot to start in the World Cup.
The back four has had problems, especially the center backs that played like crap this past game. The miscues that lead to the goals warrant that statement, whether you or I like it or not. I don’t see Bob switching horses back there now though. Boca, Gooch, Jay, and Dolo get another shot to try and keep a clean sheet, I know Tim Howard’s rooting for them.
Last game I predicted a 3-0 Yanks win, and though far wide of the mark, one could argue that we scored three goals in that game. My predicted result didn’t take into account that we would play like ass in the first half. My mistake.
This game. USA 2-1 Algeria.
I won’t make the mistake of picking us to shut someone out again, but the Algerian need to score and win combined with our knack for counter-attacking and knack for making use of set pieces will hopefully give us plenty of opportunities to net at least two. Here’s hopin’.
Let’s win this game.
Jon Levy is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.