Soccer  > World Cup  > American task easier, but on bigger stage
June 23, 2010, 10:47 AM
By Michael Lewis

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The task may seem easier, yet the stage is that much greater.

A year ago, needing a lopsided victory to reach the semifinals at the Confederations Cup in South Africa, the United States produced a 3-0 win over Egypt - and then received just enough help from Brazil when it dominated Italy by the same score.

On Wednesday, the Americans need only a victory - and no help from anybody else - against Algeria. A win will be rewarded with a berth in the second round of the World Cup. A loss sends the United States home and ends its World Cup hopes in the group stage for a second straight time.

"We've been there before and we're prepared," U.S. captain and defender Carlos Bocanegra said.

A draw also would be sufficient for to advance, as long as England doesn't beat group leader Slovenia or ties the Eastern Europeans and the U.S. maintains its advantage on goal difference.

Both teams have developed a habit of starting slowly in games.

The Americans twice have had to rally after allowing early goals. They overcame a one-goal deficit to equalize against England, and then had to overcome a two-goal hole to draw with Slovenia.

"We felt very good about the pure effort that was put into the second half," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said about the Slovenia match. "If we can build on that for this game, it's a good start for us to win an important match."

Needing a win to have any chance of advancing, Algeria likely will press the attack and break out of the defensive shell used in its 0-0 draw with England. That could serve the U.S. interests, allowing it to counter-attack with midfielder Landon Donovan.

Donovan led the American comeback against Slovenia, scoring the first goal and setting up Michael Bradley's equalizer.

"It'll be interesting to see how they approach the game," Donovan said. "They have no choice but to win. There are scenarios where we could tie and advance, so their approach to the game would most likely be an aggressive approach to get a goal and win the game.

"But they're a team that, as much as we can watch tape and know about their players, as a team they can be unpredictable. On their day, they're a very good team. We have to see what the game presents early."

Bradley has some changes to make. Robbie Findley, the fastest player on the team, will not be eligible because of an accumulated yellow-card suspension. The other leading man, Jozy Altidore, missed practice Tuesday with a stomach ailment, although Bradley said the 20-year-old forward will be available.

"Jozy just wasn't feeling well," Bob Bradley said. "He'll be fine tomorrow."

If Altidore can't play, Bob Bradley has understudy Edson Buddle to pair with Clint Dempsey, who started the first two games at midfield. Dempsey was moved forward in the second half against Slovenia. Depending on which flank he wants to play Donovan, Bob Bradley can use DaMarcus Beasley or Benny Feilhaber on the left side, and Stuart Holden or Feilhaber on the right.

The United States needed a win against Ghana in its final group match in 2006 in Germany to advance, but lost 2-1. The Americans went home with two draws and a loss -- and quite disappointed.

"We obviously had a bad outing in 2006. We weren't happy with how things worked out," Bocanegra said.

"We have a great chance to get a win and advance to the second round. It's important for us because we had that disappointment in '06. It's not extra motivation, but it's in the back of our minds."

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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