US must stop allowing early goals

Two first half tallies by Slovenia made the US dig for a result

Another World Cup game, another early goal conceded. After surrendering the lead against England last week in the fourth minute, the US lost focus early again on Friday, giving up an early goal against Slovenia in the 13th minute.

Again, it changed the tone of the game and left the Americans chasing. But this one was a little different: The US suddenly found themselves down 2-0 before halftime, an even more daunting challenge ahead of them.

Yet they somehow dug deep and found the strength to battle back in the second half and earn a 2-2 draw. While the ugly trend of conceding first and early continues to plague the team, to their credit, they have something in reserve, said Landon Donovan at the postgame press conference.

“My guess is that there aren’t many teams in this tournament who can do what we did and arguably have won the game,” he said. “And that’s what the American spirit is about. I’m sure the people back home are proud of that.”

Proud of the rally, perhaps. Proud of the result? Maybe not.

Donovan admitted the US’ nasty habit is something they need to fix in a hurry, especially given that their final game against Algeria is absolutely, positively a must-win game in every sense of the word if the Americans are to advance out of the group.

“At the start of the match, we were tentative I think we sat too deep, which caused us problems,” Donovan said of being one-upped by Slovenia from the get-go. “At that point we had no choice but to push the game. It’s easier in hindsight to say why didn’t we start that way, but we need to start that way.”

But what’s done is done. The US didn’t get a controversial late go-ahead goal from Maurice Edu to count and they now have two points from two games, both come-from-behind draws. There’s more work to be done.

“I think this team has shown that it keeps fighting until the end and we have now had the experience of pushing games when we’re behind,” US head coach Bob Bradley said after the match, “and I think that’s something we feel good about. It’s a credit to the mentality of the players, it’s a credit to the fact that we’re going to fight for 90 minutes every game.”

Maybe when the US take on Algeria in the crucial group-stage capper on June 23 in Pretoria, they’ll actually act like there are 90 minutes to play. Let’s hope that American spirit hasn’t been tapped out.

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