Preview: US – Algeria
If the US wins their game tomorrow they advance to the next round. There are a lot of other scenarios that involve ties that could also send the US on, but in the simplest form: we win we’re in. However, the results of the four group games so far have left the group wide open for all four of the teams to advance including tomorrow’s opponents Algeria who can advance with a win as well. In fact, so many things can happen in the group depending on the result of this game and the game between England and Slovenia, the US cannot take the game lightly and need to go in with the must win attitude that Algeria will have.
Algeria’s first game ended up as a loss to Slovenia because their number one goalkeeper pulled a Green. Like England after that costly mistake, the coach pulled their starting keeper for a younger replacement. This could give the US attackers an advantage because of the keeper’s lack of experience. In the second game,despite some errors by the young goalie, Algeria kept England scoreless to earn a 0-0 tie. While these results give the US confidence that they will win their final game of the group stage, they should know from experience that final scores do not tell the whole story.
Although Algeria has yet to score a goal in this World Cup, and their last goal in open play was back in January, they are not without dangerous attacking players. On the left side is an attacking tandem of Nadir Belhadj in the defense and left winger Karim Ziani. These two players are quick and have good skill so Cherundolo will be looked on to continue his outstanding tournament performance and whoever lines up ahead of him in the midfield will have to track back more often. The other side of the US defense will also have to step up their play to redeem themselves after failing to stick with their marks and communicate to the rest of the team on Slovenia’s second goal.
Even if the opposing team doesn’t have high stats in offense, the US defense is going to have to stay focused from the first whistle. In their past two games the US has given up early goals and has gone into halftime trailing. While the US was able to fight back to earn ties in both of these games the team cannot always count on their ability to come back. One of the top questions that need to be answered for the next game is who should be paired up with Bradley in the midfield. Torres was given the start against Slovenia after Clark’s costly mistake against England, but Torres does not have the defensive play that the US style requires. Maurice Edu was subbed in at half time and performed well enough to possibly get the start against Algeria.
Whoever ends up in the midfield for the US will also need to have the skill and patience to hold the ball and make smart passing. In their game against England Algeria used five midfielders. If they do that again it will leave the US with less space to work with as they attempt to break down the ten players that could be behind the ball on defense. This should not be much of a problem if the US goes into the start of the game like they did for the second half of the Slovenia game where they broke through the Slovenian defensive shell to score three…I mean two times.
Another question that still needs to be answered is in the attack. Jozy Altidore has a starting spot, but now that Findley can’t be up top with him who will? After the game against England it was thought that Findley didn’t quite have the skill to be a starter and should be used as a dangerous sub. The next game Bradley chose to stick with Findley and was given a similar lackluster performance that gave Findley his second yellow card of the first round causing him to sit out against Algeria. There are three options to replace Findley: Buddle, Gomez or Dempsey. While none can match Findley’s speed they are by no means slow. Dempsey has done well in the midfield so far so Bradley will probably want to keep him there. Buddle and Gomez have both scored a lot for their club sides and have both shown they can score at the international level so either would be a good fit, but I think Buddle’s height might give him an edge.
The game is scheduled for 9:00 AM CST and will be run on ESPN. The second game of group C will be run at the same time on ESPN2. Both games can also be seen live online at ESPN3.com. The next set of games at 1:30 CST will decide who the top two teams from group C will face in the round of 16. Again, if the US wins they advance, but for those of you who will want to know exactly what the two game results will mean for the US take a look back at the different possibilities.