US make dramatic comeback in 2-2 draw against Slovenia

Donovan, Bradley strike in 2nd half to keep Yanks' hopes alive

JOHANNESBURG – Michael Bradley scored a dramatic equalizer in the
82nd minute as the US rallied from a two-goal deficit to draw a tough
Slovenia side 2-2 at Ellis Park on Friday night, effectively rescuing the
Americans from early elimination at the World Cup.

The US were
eight minutes from a loss, which would have put Slovenia atop the group
with six points and the Americans at the mercy of the England-Algeria
result later on Friday.

And disaster was nearly in the cards. Bob
Bradley elected to give possession-oriented midfielder José Francisco
Torres the start in central midfield alongside his son Michael, a move
aimed at trying to control the pace of the game and create a goal.

But
the lack of physicality in the midfield left a gaping hole, and
Milivoje Novakovic took immediate advantage of the size mismatch.
Bradley had warned all week about the creativity and mobility of the
6-foot-3 striker, and the US quickly learned why.

Thirteen minutes
in, Novakovic made the sloppy US defense pay, surging into the area
right at Jay DeMerit and slotting the ball across to Valter Birsa. With
time and space, the Auxerre winger set and calmly chipped it over a
flat-footed Tim Howard, putting the US at an early deficit for a second
straight match.

The US looked dazed and spent most of the rest of
the half trying to regain their composure. They finally pushed forward
in the 36th minute, and Torres tested Samir Handandovic with a free
kick. Minutes later, Landon Donovan came close to equalizing, but right
back Miso Brecko cleared his effort off the goalmouth.

Just when
the Americans seemed to find some rhythm, Slovenia struck again. The US
back line again lost its composure in the 42nd minute. Winger Andraz
Kirm made a nice pass to Aleksandar Radosavljevic, who beat Oguchi
Onyewu and put the ball underneath a diving Howard.

Bradley yanked
the ineffective Torres at the half and replaced him with the more
physical Maurice Edu. Control specialist Benny Feilhaber replaced
Findley, pushing Clint Dempsey up top alongside Jozy Altidore.

That
may have been the spark the US needed, as they responded right after
the restart. In the 48th, Steve Cherundolo’s long lead pass found
Donovan up the right side as Slovenian defender Marko Suler slipped. The
LA Galaxy captain advanced down the byline and roofed a shot to the far
post past Handanovic to open the Americans’ account.

The US
threatened several times in the second half but couldn’t finish. In the
50th, Onyewu narrowly missed getting on the end of a Donovan free kick.
Twenty minutes later, Altidore hammered a rebound off another Donovan
free kick right at Handanovic.

Herculez Gomez came off the bench
in the 80th minute for Onyewu as Bradley added attackers to press for a
late equalizer. It paid off almost immediately. Two minutes later,
Altidore headed down a long ball by Donovan into the path of a streaking
Michael Bradley, who smashed it past Handanovic for the equalizer.

The
US thought they had scored a winner three minutes later when Edu buried
another Donovan free kick, but the ref blew for a foul against the US.

With
a second consecutive draw, the US now have two points through two
matches, making their group-stage finale on June 23 against Algeria
hugely important. Slovenia sit atop the group with four points, and
England can tie them with a win over the Algerians later Friday.

Scoring
Summary:

SVN – Birsa, 13’
SVN – Ljubijankic, 42’
USA
– Donovan, 48’
USA - Bradley, 82'

Lineups:

USA -- Howard,
Cherundolo, DeMerit, Onyewu (Gomez, 80’), Bocanegra, Torres (Edu, 45’),
Bradley, Dempsey, Donovan, Altidore, Findley (Feilhaber, 45’).

Slovenia
--
Handanovic, Brecko, Suler, Cesar, Jokic, Koren (Pecnik, 74’,
Komac, 90’), Radosavljevic, Kirm, Birsa (Dedic, 87’), Novakovic,
Ljubijankic.

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