2010 Retrospective: USA-Slovenia

SOCCER/FUTBOL WORLD CUP 2010 ESLOVENIA VS ESTADOS UNIDOS Action photo of Miso Brecko (L) of Slovenia and Robbie Findley (R) of USA, during World Cup 2010 game held at the Ellis Park stadium Johannesburgo, South Africa./Foto de accion de Miso Brecko de Eslovenia y de Robbie Findley (D) de Estados Unidos, durante juego de la Copa del Mundo 2010 celebrado en el estadio Ellis Park de Johannesburgo, Sudafrica. 18 June 2010 MEXSPORT/OMAR MARTINEZ Photo via Newscom

If USA-Ghana was the World Cup low point and USA-Algeria the high, USA-Slovenia fell somewhere inbetween. Slovenia’s two first half goals appeared to have doomed the United States to an early World Cup exit, but a resurgent second half generated two goals, revitalizing American hopes. And when Maurice Edu knocked in Landon Donovan’s 85th minute cross, gringos everywhere were confident the USA was through to the knockout rounds. Referee Koman Coulibaly had different ideas, of course.

In our newest 2010 Retrospective article, FFG details the statistical story behind USA’s most bittersweet 2010 World Cup match.

Note: FFG’s match retrospectives are not game recaps. We’re attempting to provide new insights and catalog interesting statistics. So if you’re not familiar with the match, check out our game summary and tactical analysis.

Slovenia step into passing lanes

For a match whose passing and tackling statistics were so even (the US had five more passes and one more tackle), one squad manufactured a remarkably high number of interceptions. Slovenia picked off eighteen more passes than the United States.

The disparity would make sense if Slovenia had sat back in the second half when they were up two goals, but they actually made more interceptions before the halftime interval, sixteen to twelve. Though the Americans weren’t very clinical in the first half, every accolade should go to Slovenia’s defenders, whose positioning continually caused problems for the USA.

Torres, pushed around as a deep-lying playmaker

José Torres, who was dropped in favor of Maurice Edu at halftime, became one of the sacrificial lambs for USA’s poor first half. The diminutive Torres was, in fact, quite efficient when in possession. He completed 79% of his passes and even stung goalkeeper Samir Handanovic’s hands with a powerful free kick.

At times, though, Torres struggled with the match’s physical nature. He gave up two free kicks and on one occasion was outmuscled and dispossessed just yards in front of his own box.

While Torres should have done better in each instance, part of the problem was Bob Bradley’s strategy. Bradley elected to use Torres as a deep-lying playmaker, which, in the USA’s 4-4-2, is a role normally reserved for bigger midfielders Maurice Edu or Ricardo Clark.

Offensively, the move paid off, as Torres’ efficient passing chart shows. However, when a US attack broke down, his positioning meant he was the deepest midfielder. Torres’ small frame didn’t cause any problems for Slovenia’s rugged midfielders and strikers.

Another excellent showing from USA’s right back

In what is quickly becoming a theme, Steve Cherundolo had another excellent match. He completed forty-four of fifty-eight passes, creating three chances and earning an assist. Additionally, he won two challenges (losing none) and only Jozy Altidore earned more free kicks than Cherundolo.

Cherundolo commanded his flank, winning five free kicks without conceding any.

USA’s strikers surprisingly good

Right back wasn’t the only position from which the United States received solid play. The American strikers had their best World Cup match. Even the usually inefficient Robbie Findley – who didn’t help create a single US goal in 2010 – sometimes put the Slovenes on their back foot. The future Nottingham Forest forward completed nine of twelve passes, including the service that freed Clint Dempsey into the box and led to USA’s best chance of the first half (Dempsey’s ensuing cross was cleared right before Landon Donovan could fire home).

Professional Barack Obama impersonator Herculez Gomez, who came on in the 80th minute, also came up big, as the following picture shows.

The far post run of Herculez Gomez (orange) run created space for Michael Bradley (red) to run onto a pass from Jozy Altidore (blue). Bradley scored the equalizer during this sequence.

And, as we not we noted earlier in the week, Jozy Altidore delivered his finest World Cup performance against Slovenia. Altidore used his size and speed to flummox defenders: he won five free kicks on the edge of the box (and two closer to his own half), emerged victorious on three of four take-ons, and goaded two Slovenian defenders into yellow cards. He also garnered an assist on Bradley’s equalizer.

Without Jozy Altidore's excellent hold-up play, Michael Bradley wouldn't have had reason to be so incensed.

Altidore even earned the free kick that led to one of USA’s most infamous World Cup moments, though perhaps the less said about that free kick the better.

Gringos, are thoughts of summer coming flooding back? Is the Slovenia match a bittersweet memory? Or do the foibles of Koman Coulibaly fail to put a damper on your recollections?

One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

    I don’t remember Findley being that good, though I don’t doubt he was. I find it hard to look at him and not think, ‘what if that had been Charlie.’

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