A disclaimer before I preview USA-Slovenia: I just had my wisdom teeth removed and am very high on painkillers. I apologize if I make up words, players, or even countries. (Note: Slovenia is in fact a real country, despite it disguising itself as a small village. I am not making this place up, I swear.)
The main word that comes to mind about Friday’s match against Slovenia is “scary”. The US is the favorite, and is expected to take care of business. But this may not be that simple. The USA has a terrible track record of not showing up to play when they are favored to win. Just ask Ghana.
The U.S. absolutely can not lose. A loss virtually eliminates them. A tie really wouldn't be awful, but it would put immense pressure on the final game against Algeria. (More on scenarios below.) Not only does this game have the typical upset recipe from the U.S. side, but Slovenia has also made their living off big upsets -- they beat heavily favored Russia to qualify for the World Cup.
This team may not have many big names, but they are fearless, very much like The U.S. They also have virtually no pressure heading into this game, as a win puts them through to the knockout stage, while a loss doesn’t mean they are done by any stretch of the imagination. Like I said, scary.
Likewise, Bob Bradley could switch the forwards by giving Edson Buddle a start. He didn’t get much time against England, but looked confident in his short appearance as he fired a hard shot immediately after entering the game. It wouldn’t necessarily be a mistake to start Findley, but I maintain that he is more effective off the bench because of his speed.
The U.S. is in a better position right now than many people give them credit for. A draw with Slovenia would be a disappointment, and anything less than 3 points against Algeria would be a terrible result. So you have to figure that the U.S. will end up with at least 5 points in the group.
You can also assume that England will beat Algeria in the second game, so going into the final matchup, both England and Slovenia would have 4 points, and they would be playing each other. A draw would put it into a goal differential tiebreaker between the three (assuming our 5 points from a tie with Slovenia), but they would most likely advance due to Slovenia’s measly 1-0 win against Algeria, who truly looked terrible.
You have to think that the U.S.A. will do better than that. If either team wins, the other will be left with 4 points, and the Red, White, and Blue advance. This being the case, you have to figure that the U.S. probably advances with a draw on Friday, but that is not the ideal situation. A win against Slovenia puts them in the drivers seat, hopefully not of this car, but of the metaphorical one. They could advance there with a draw against Algeria, something that has to be assumed is automatic. Knock on wood.
A loss against Slovenia, and the U.S has to pray that Slovenia beats England and that the U.S. can beat England on goal differential. That is of course assuming a U.S. win against Algeria. Goal differential wouldn’t be necessary if England lost to Algeria.
Let’s not even think about that though. When the U.S.A. wins 2-0 on Friday, the only thing that will matter is who they're going to play in the knockout stages. They won’t be officially qualified, but I will give it the Official Bradley Goldman Stamp of Advancement, which as you know, is very official. Dempsey and Jozy Altidore will have the two goals. Expect a better, more involved performance out of Landon Donovan, and expect Tim Howard to be his usual self.
Also, check out some Slovene’s trash talking. I would name him, but he's insignificant. I find it cute that someone who “came on as a substitute in the final minutes” is talking shit. Let’s hear you talk shit when you watch your team lose from the bench. Don’t tread.