Now that the deserved hoopla has calmed down about the United States beating Algeria and making it to the second round of the World Cup, it’s time for a reality check. That is that the United States, while playing very well in the first round, are currently not good enough to make it far in this tournament.
That is, if they continue playing the way they’ve been doing.
Against Algeria, lest we not forget, the United States was incredibly fortunate that Algeria missed their clearcut chances to win the game. They were incredibly dangerous on the counter attack and had several chances to score after getting past the US defense with relative ease.
The United States team in midfield, with Michael Bradley in a commandeering role, have few weaknesses.
But up front for the United States is a different story. Despite how hard he tries, Jozy Altidore still seems unable to tap into the composure he needs in front of goal to slot the ball away. Contrast that with Landon Donovan who, under incredible pressure, took a deep breath and calmly slotted the winner against Algeria into the back of the net. Altidore tries so hard but unfortunately comes up empty.
Edson Buddle, who finally got a chance to show the World Cup what talent he has when he came on as a substitute against Algeria, lacks match practice. He created immediate chances for the United States but he needs an opportunity to start a game so he can settle down and earn his stripes.
Benny Feilhaber has been a game changer for the United States in both the Slovenia and Algeria games when he has come on to the field. This is a soccer player with incredible experience and composure on the ball who is able to carve holes in defenses while also providing the United States with a strong ability to break up plays from the opposition.
While Oguchi Onyewu’s fitness levels remain questionable, there are still plenty of questions in defense. Jonathan Bornstein had a poor game against Algeria and wasn’t the solution Bob Bradley was looking for. Carlos Bocanegra’s form is still questionable. But what options are available to Bradley? The answer is not too many.
For the United States to beat Ghana on Saturday will require a much greater performance than those against Algeria and Slovenia. It’s time for the United States to win a game by a comfortable margin and not pin its hopes on hoping that a controversial decision will go their way. Yes, the US should have been given two more goals in the first round of World Cup games, but the team’s future hangs too much in the balance of close games that rely on good refereeing decisions. Judging by the lack of quality of FIFA referees, that’s a dangerous game to play.