Soccer  > World Cup  > United States tries to solve early lapses
June 21, 2010, 10:12 AM
By Michael Lewis

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The United States won't get back the nullified goal that cost it a victory against Slovenia. Instead, it's trying to figure out how to stop allowing early goals.

Twice already at the World Cup, the Americans have allowed their foes to score first to fall behind, then had to rally for draws. It happened vs. England en route to a 1-1 tie on June 12 and then again against Slovenia, forcing them to overcome a two-goal deficit to equalize.

It's a pattern that has become too familiar to U.S. observers.

In 17 matches over the past two years, including 10 World Cup qualifiers, five FIFA Confederations Cup matches and two games in South Africa, the Americans have fallen behind first seven times.

It's a dangerous trend when you consider that teams that score first at the World Cup win 77 percent of the time.

The Americans are hoping to end its self-imposed handicap streak against Algeria on Wednesday, when a victory will guarantee them a berth in the second round.

"Ultimately, we prepare the same way every game, so it's hard to put your finger on one certain thing," U.S. central defender Jay DeMerit said. "Warm-ups have been fine. Attitude going out before the tunnel has been fine."

Goalkeeper Tim Howard admits he has been confounded by the problem.

"It's not something we enjoy," he said. "No one likes going behind in a game. For whatever reason we seem to be very, very resilient. We start to play more to our strengths when we get desperate. . . . For the lack of a term, we started to hit it long and let the big boys up front hit those guys in the mouth and get forward and push around and wrestle them."

The United States has to chase the game against Slovenia on Friday, using the long-ball game more than they wanted.

Howard said playing long ball certainly isn't the team's mind set when the game kicks off.

"You want it to be a little more pretty, a little bit more flashy," he said. "God, I don't know the answer to it. We can all go around and say, 'Let's get an early lead' but that doesn't translate on the field. It's a little bit more hard work and concentration and a little bit of luck."

The United States has four days to prepare for Algeria Wednesday, one day less than between the England and Slovenia matches.

"That's easy," midfielder-forward Clint Dempsey said. "We're in a World Cup. We're going to be so motivated that that's not going to affect us. We know what we have to do to prepare our minds and bodies for this game. We'll be ready to put in the same type of effort."

Dempsey, 27, realized this could be his second and final World Cup.

"This opportunity doesn't come along a lot in life," he said. "Who knows how many World Cups a player gets to play in?


Group C

Saturday, June 12
England 1, United States 1
Sunday, June 13
Algeria 0, Slovenia 1
Friday, June 18
Slovenia 2, United States 2
England 0, Algeria 0
Wednesday, June 23
United States vs. Algeria
Slovenia vs. England

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