Donovan: Slovenia match more important than England match

US grasp the importance of winning against Group C leaders

JOHANNESBURG — Clint Dempsey calls it a “can’t-lose” game. But Landon Donovan has a more dire assessment:

“In all likelihood, if we lose Friday, we’re out of the tournament,” the US star said of the Americans’ second World Cup game, against Slovenia. “That’s the reality of the situation.”

The euphoria of the point wrestled from England is now in the past. With Slovenia’s 1-0 win over Algeria on Sunday taking the Green Dragons atop Group C, the US enter Friday’s match at Johahnnesburg’s Ellis Park with a golden opportunity to wrest control from Matjaz Kek’s team.

“As much as people put into the England game, this one becomes a lot more important in that way,” Donovan added.

England will almost surely rebound in their second match, a tilt with the Algerians that has the potential to be a laugher for the Three Lions. A landslide win would likely put Fabio Capello’s men atop the group on goal differential.

The US’ game against Slovenia is four-and-a-half hours earlier on Friday, which means they need to make a statement in order to keep their destiny in their own hands. Slovenia are a surprisingly tough opponent who reached their second World Cup with a huge upset over Russia in UEFA qualifying in a playoff.

Donovan says the Americans are taking the Slovenians seriously. Another draw is an absolute minimum. A win is the goal.

“A tie means we’re still in the tournament,” he said. “You have to be aware of that. That being said, we understand very clearly that if we win the game, we’ve got a very, very good chance of getting through. So that will be our first priority.”