What a game! The best match of the World Cup so far. Day 8 has brought the tournament to life and England v Algeria still have to play. But even though the second half should give the US team a great deal of confidence, a truly bizarre refereeing decision kept this game at a draw and leaves the US plenty of work to do against Algeria on Wednesday. After the US had stormed back to draw level, the Malian referee somehow saw an infraction on one of the American players just before half-time sub Maurice Edu slotted home from Landon Donovan's perfect free kick. It has to rank as one of the most egregious mistakes in World Cup play as it was error of commission rather than omission, he saw a foul that wasn't there rather than missing a call. The US has been victim to poor and extremely consequential decisions in each of the last three World Cups - tough to view all of this as a coincidence.
For the neutral, this eighth day of the World Cup must have been amazing. For the partisan, the nerves are jangling. After watching German fall flat against Serbia - helped along by some strange officiating in that game too - opening up the second round possibilities for the two teams that advance out of Group C, the US team began play as if they had never seen each other or a soccer ball before. The Slovenes had acres of space and scored two goals from what can only be described as shocking defending. But it set up a dramatic fight back by the US in a pulsating second half that saw two goals for the US but more chances for both teams. Michael Bradley poking home from Altidore's knock down set up a remarkable finish with the US on the front foot but still looking vulnerable in defense.
And then the goal came for everyone watching except the referee. ESPN flashed that the ruling was offside. Replays not only showed no offside, the slow motion indicated that at least three Slovenean defenders had their arms wrapped around Americans as the line moved forward. If there was a foul to call it was on them not us! Unbelievable. The Everton Manager David Moyes said on BBC, "I've just seen that disallowed goal for the US again - and not only was there no foul by a US player, there are probably two penalty-kick offences being committed by the Slovenian defenders. Shocking decision."
It wasn't the first time in this game that there were odd calls - all going against the US - in and around the Slovenan box. One play Dempsey was wrestled to the ground in the box, no call. On another, he was body check as Altidore got off a snap shot. Altidore was blocked off just outside the box by the last defender that only drew a yellow card. One earlier decision saw Altidore thrown down this time near the midway line only to find the infraction whistled on the American. You might think the ref just plain didn't like the United States.
Its not as if this is the first time this has happened to the US team in a World Cup. We all remember the truly shocking no call in the 2002 quarterfinal against Germany when Torsten Frings made a brilliant save with his left hand. The only problem is that Torsten Frings is a midfielder, the German goalie was cleanly beaten. Penalty and red card. Except not that time. Flash forward four years to the final group game for the US against Ghana when we needed a win to go through. After another slow start the US had equalized when a poor clearance from Bocanegra at left back towards the top of the box. Gooch and a Ghanaian attacker go for the ball, the Ghanaian player goes down, penalty. Ghana covert, go up 2-1 and that is that.
The pattern of poor refereeing against the US needs to be reversed, and we can do something about it. Bob Bradley needs to complain, and complain loudly. The USSF needs to make some noise. Elevate this into a controversy so that everyone knows that the US team feels aggrieved. Not only will that help the psyche of the team - 'us against the world' - it will put the match officials on notice that we are watching, perhaps shading it a bit in advance of the next game. A rather successful
manager for some team in Manchester has made a career out of it. We were robbed.