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World Cup Fan Blog: Thunder strikes and Controversy, a look back at USA-Slovenia

World Cup Fan Blog: Thunder strikes and Controversy, a look back at USA-Slovenia

by Daniel Brindle

Posted on June 19, 2010 at 4:44 AM

Updated Saturday, Jun 19 at 9:15 AM

When I was in college, I took one summer course.  It went 4 weeks and each day of the class covered all the material of a week in a normal semester class.  Really not a bad way to go to college.  My final in that course was around the topic of whether an in game sports announcer should inject his opinion on an official's decision into his commentary, or simply call the game as it is officiated.

No such issue from Ian Drake (an Englishman) or John Harkes (American soccer legend) announcing yesterday's contest.  Drake even calling the decision to disallow the apparent game winner "a horrible call."  Of course I like this.

We may as well jump right into this mess of a controversy right off the bat.  There isn't alot to add though.  In the nearly 24 hours since the incident, no information has been presented, no new camera angle revealed, nothing to indicate the USA had not won that game.

I see the conspiracy theories.  I have heard Eric Wynalda request an investigation due not only to this call, but to the official allowing a Slovenian player to run off injury time by lying on the field after a mild collision with Dempsey.  I see logic in those arguments, but I'm going to try to offer a non-cynical explanation.

Here's what I think happened.  I think the official, Koman Coulibaly, was unsure of the foul he gave the US in such a dangerous spot, and did not want THAT decision to decide the game.  He blew the whistle almost immediately after Donovan put it in the air.  He was calling a USA foul on that kick no matter what so that the foul he gave did not decide the match.  In the process, he decided the match.

It really is fairly outrageous, but I'm not sure the outrage is ever going to result in much. I mean there were more Slovenian bearhugs, headlocks, full and half nelsons in there than a WWE pay-per-view, and he still found a way to blow the whistle against the boys in blue (see picture above).  He had to pre-determine a foul, cuase there was precious little to construe as wrong from the Americans. (maybe a Bocanegra hold, maybe a Gomez shove in the back, but I think he blew the whistle before both these possible things occurred)

He blew the call, but there is no system in place to reverse the call, nor should there be.  Bottom line: USA got hosed.  Let me tell you, as a Cleveland Browns fan I felt this sting before, though never this outrageous nor on this big of a stage.

The USA are still in prime position to take care of business Wednesday morning and maybe even win the group.  If you had asked American fans a week ago if they would take a "win and your in" scenario in their last contest against the supposed minnow Algeria- they'd likely take it.  Throw in the roll of the dice chance to win the group, advance with a tie or avoid Germany through placement of group D, and you have to like the USA position.  Those 3 points would have been nice though.

As for my other thoughts on the match? 

-In my pregame thoughts Friday, I hinted at worry about Torres's defensive capabilities.  Those worries proved well founded as he picked up frequent fouls and shares some blame in the first goal against.  He is likely done for this World Cup.

-The US was always able to attack Slovenia through player movements and long runs.  Both goals were scored on the end of 40+ yard runs.  The US is very dangerous when the move.

-After allowing the first goal (Onyewu, Bradley, Torres, Howard(?)), the USA commenced a nice segment of attack on the Slovenians, but none of the attacks were rewarded with goals.Findley and Dempsey played crosses into dangerous areas that were stuffed by Slovenian defenders for corners.

-Onyewu lost his form with his back line mates on the second goal, playing a full 5-7 yards behind them and allowing Zlatan Ljubijankic to stay onsides.  All together not a good game for "Gooch."  Perhaps coming back 5 days after a good 90 minute performance against England was too much for the recently healthy defender, and I would not be surprised to see Goodson in his place in the final match.   

-The first half was just awful.  The USA played with all the urgency of BP's cleaning effort.  They were hesitant on defense, hesitant to put the ball on goal and overall looked the part of a team headed home next week.

-Then it happened, Donovan's Thunderstrike.  Just under 3 minutes into the second half, Donovan decided to take the game as his own after the Slovenian LB erred playing a nice long ball from Cherundolo.  Man, that had to feel good, the release of the frustration of all 23 US players, and indeed all the fans back home as he ripped a shot from 8 yards that he later admit he aimed for the keepers head.  Rather than eat the shot in spectacular fashion, the keeper cowered back into his goal, and Donovan's ripper bulged the top of the goal. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  If Donovan played his whole contest with this machismo, he'd be even better.

-Now all the parts start firing.  Altidore becomes a bull as the Slovenian defense tires and turns world football into American football.  I'm a big believer in Jozy.  His game is immature in that he is often unable to impose his considerable physical tools on the outcome of matches, but I thought the last 35 minutes of the match belonged to Altidore.  He drew penalties, drew yellows, started winning headers and possession and ultimately made an excellent knockdown into Bradley's path for the game tying goal. (another fantastic finish).  Altidore was also the man who drew the foul that led to the free kick that should have won the match.  Donovan deserves Man of Match billing, but that Jozy Altidore is a difference maker.

-Is it just because I am so emotionally attached to the American games or have the two most dramatic/talked about moments of the tournament been with the US.  Green's gaffe in the England game gifting the American's one point and now the questionable referee's decision costing the US two are the most memorable moments of the cup as far as I'm concerned to this point.

Finally a word about England.  They looked disjointed and inept against Algeria.  I still think they win against Slovenia, but there was rarely even a moment of much promise in the contest, let alone moments of good or great.

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