JOHANNESBURG — Slovenia’s win over Algeria has put them in an interesting position: atop Group C and not needing to play for a win against the US on Friday.
That means the Slovenians can sit back and dare the Americans to attack, creating an interesting lineup challenge for Bob Bradley, who may need to adjust his 11 to a more attack-heavy formation. The US coach has intimated he may switch it up.
Two possible candidates to get some minutes against the Slovenians are midfield possession specialists José Francisco Torres and Benny Feilhaber. And both say they’re ready.
“We have to control the game and control the ball,” Torres said on Tuesday, adding he plans to study a DVD Bradley made him of the Slovenians. “I’ll have to see where we’re going to attack. Hopefully, I’ll get to play.”
Torres’ solid play in the US’ warm-up matches has catapulted him from fringe specialist during qualifying to secret weapon in the past few weeks, and the 22-year-old’s ball skills and elusive feet could make him an asset on Friday. The Pachuca man credits his emergence to working on his weaknesses under Bradley’s tutelage.
“Attacking wasn’t a problem, but defense was a little bit,” he said. “I had to close gaps, press the line forward a little bit and start making tackles. I think that’s what helped me out a lot.”
Feilhaber, meanwhile, says he knew he probably wouldn’t play against England, but that he’s hopeful to get in against Slovenia, whose tight lines will be tough to unlock.
“You can watch tape as much as you want,” he said of how to attack the Green Dragons. “But a lot of it comes with the feeling in the game. You see one of their players is having a bad game and maybe you want to attack that side.”
The Brazilian-born Southern Californian has also enjoyed a resurgence on the international level. After spending more than a year away from the pool, he became a regular again a little more than a year ago and played in all five games at last summer’s Confederations Cup.
Either player would lend the US an attacking aspect they’ll need. A win against the Slovenians and the Americans will have four points and in very good position to advance.
“All in all I think it’s a team we can beat,” said Feilhaber. “We’re probably going to look to get all three points—it’s the most important game in the group.”
Jonah Freedman is reporting from South Africa during the World Cup.
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