Photo by Joe Toth/ISIphotos.com
The U.S. men's national team pulled off one of the best comebacks in World Cup history on Friday, only to have a tragic referee's decision deny a victory for the ages.
There is no denying the team endured a rough first half, a disappointing start considering the stakes, but there is also no denying the Americans showed great poise and heart to battle back and erase a two-goal deficit.
Here is my take on the match for Fox Soccer, as well as five things we learned from the match.
As far as the performance of referee Koman Coulibaly, I don't think anybody would argue that he had anything but a shocking showing. Sports Illustrated's Peter King offered up a properly outraged take on Coulibaly's performance. American fans will be happy to hear that it sounds as though Coulibaly is probably done for the World Cup.
The task for the Americans is clear now. A win and they are into the second round. A loss to Algeria and their World Cup is over.
As for how the Americans did against Slovenia, here are my player grades for the match:
USA Player Grades vs. Slovenia
Tim Howard (6). Couldn't stop either goal in the first half, but did step up with key stops in the second half.
Steve Cherundolo (7). A second strong match for the right back, who has been the best American defender this tournament.
Oguchi Onyewu (5). Shaky in the first half, but settled down in the second half. Will he be able to rebound on short rest against Algeria?
Jay DeMerit (6.5). Another steady outing from the rugged defender.
Carlos Bocanegra (5). Struggled to keep tabs on Valter Birsa, though Donovan played a part in that as well.
Landon Donovan (7). Not a memorable first half, but Donovan emerged in the second half and helped propel the comeback.
Michael Bradley (7.5). Did the heavy lifting in midfield in the first half when Jose Torres struggled, then stepped up his game even further in the second half, culminating in the equalizer.
Jose Torres (4). Just didn't get it done. had some nice touches, and a dangerous free kick, but some bad turnovers and tentativeness left his teammates picking up a bunch of the slack.
Clint Dempsey (5.5). Not a force offensively, but Dempsey did do a bunch of running to help defensively.
Robbie Findley (4). Put in positions to succeed, but he couldn't make the most of any of them.
Jozy Altidore (7.5). Arguably one of the best matches of his young national team career. His work rate is improving and he's becoming a real handful for defenders. He has really learned how to use his size and speed.
Maurice Edu (6.5). Came in and providing sorely-needed stability, as well as versatility. There's no way he doesn't start vs. Algeria.
Benny Feilhaber (6). Active and solid in a left wing role. He played well enough to merit more minutes.
Herculez Gomez (NR). Active in a short amount of time, it was his run that freed up space for Altidore to head the equalizer to Bradley.
What did you think of the USA's victory? Still upset about Coulibaly's call? Confident the Americans will beat Algeria and qualify for the second round.
Share your thoughts below.