POSTGAME: Can't believe how it ended. Breathtaking finish. The U.S. came close to scoring so many times but it was looking like it was never going to happen until Donovan saved the day in stoppage time when he streaked into the box to slam home the rebound from Dempsey's strike. Sheer jubilation for the U.S. team and fans. They showed a lot of heart to hang in there. The U.S. could have been up 1-0 in the first half but they got unlucky when Dempsey's goal was ruled offside on a questionable call. But no matter. And now they're through to the next round and finish top of Group C. It was a game they deserved to win and, thankfully, they found a way to do so.
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PREVIEW: It's do or die time for the U.S. team today. If the Americans beat Algeria they will advance to the round of 16; if they draw, and England only manages a tie against Slovenia, they could still move on. If they lose, they're coming home. The good news is their fate is entirely in their own hands. The bad news is history is not on their side: The U.S. has lost every single game 3 it has played in the World Cup. Can they break the habit when it matters most?
On paper the U.S. are the favorites against the Desert Foxes, but then again the Americans have demonstrated a remarkable capacity to squander any advantage by quickly digging themselves giant holes to climb out of so far this tournament. The Algerians haven't looked particularly deadly when it comes to finishing -- they lack a clear goal scorer up front -- but they have proven extremely tough to break down at the back (just ask England). Were it not for a Robert Greenesque blunder by their goalkeeper in their opening match against Slovenia, the Algerians would possess two clean sheets. And so once again the U.S. will need Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley (who is having a break-out tournament) to provide a bit of magic in the final third of the pitch.
Beyond maintaining the aggression and energy that sparked their heroic comeback against Slovenia, the U.S. will have to find a way to guard against their propensity for allowing a soft early goal. By now the team's weakness is clear: a lack of focus and intensity at the start of games, particularly among the defense. Center back Oguchi Onyewu has been found wanting on every goal the U.S. has given up so far this tournament. Keep a clean sheet, a feat the U.S. has failed to achieve for some time now, and their chances of taking 3 points increase dramatically.
For those worried about the U.S.'s chances today, here's a more positive pattern to keep in mind: America has made it out of the group stage in every other World Cup they've played in since 1990. Given their uninspiring early exit from Germany in 2006, they're due to advance. Let's hope they can seize the moment and keep that tradition alive.
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