US versus Slovenia: Image Via Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
There were no fluke goals for the US in their World Cup match against Slovenia today, no lucky bounces to bail out a struggling team that, once again, found itself trailing early.
Instead, there was a comeback of grit, determination and a couple of wicked shots from Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley that turned a two-goal halftime deficit into a 2-2 tie in what was a tournament-saving half for the Americans.
And this time, instead of being on the good side of fate, the US may have been robbed.
After yet another disastrous start in which the US allowed an early goal – this one in the 13th minute – the Americans repeatedly were mere feet away from tying the game on a number of occasions around the 40th minute. Twice, a Slovenian defender cleared a ball just as it was heading toward the net.
But, in soccer, you have to take care of the opportunities you get because they don’t come along often. After the US failed to capitalize, Slovenia took a 2-0 lead just before the half on a goal by Zlatan Ljubijankic.
At this point, it looked mostly lost for the Americans. Their only goal in 135 minutes to that point had been a gift from England’s keeper, and now, they needed to score twice in 45 minutes.
But barely three minutes into the second half, Landon Donovan got behind the defense and came in on net from a sharp angle. He roofed a shot past goalkeeper Samir Handanovic and suddenly the complexion of the game changed.
Instead of being a team facing an often insurmountable deficit and cursed with an inability to capitalize on good chances, the US was a team with confidence that probably could have been leading at that point.
Slovenia might have been unnerved by the changing momentum, as their physical play often crossed the line, resulting in three yellow cards in a six-minute span in the second half.
The Americans kept attacking and when Donovan’s long kick was headed down by Jozy Altidore to Michael Bradley’s foot, the coach’s son ripped a high shot past Handanovic setting off a wild celebration for the US.
The Americans briefly thought they’d completed the stunning comeback when the scored later on a free kick, but the goal was disallowed on a controversial foul call. ESPN’s Alexi Lalas called the no-goal call “a disgrace.”
The US now has two points in group play and Slovenia has four. A loss would have all but ended any hopes the Americans would have had for getting out of group play. And although they’re still in a precarious position, thanks to another stunning comeback, they’ll still have a chance.