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USA v. Algeria preview

Hopefully, this will be a better prediction than my previous preview on the USA v. Slovenia game. The Algerians seem to be the weakest team in this group, but I don’t think they are significantly worse than the Slovenians. The level of talent on both teams is good across almost all positions. The one big difference is in the level of talent at goalkeeper. The Algerians seems to be relatively weak at that position.

It would be a mistake to believe that the US is facing an easy game, however, the US should find the Algerians a bit easier to break down than the English or the Slovenians. The Algerians appear to be less consistent than the Slovenians in addition to having worse discipline and organization. Again, it’s not that they are poor in any area, it’s that they are relatively weaker. They showed strong defense and organization in their game against the English, however, the English also didn’t appear to play very well.

The hope is that the US will come out and play like they did in the second half against Slovenia, but I doubt we will see that. I would expect the US to start out slow again, but hopefully the defensive lapses have been sorted out, so that we don’t give up a goal early. The Algerians have the talent to capitalize on mistakes, and they have looked somewhat dangerous coming forward. Karim Matmour certainly has the ability to stick it in the back of the net. A couple of the Algerian midfielders also appear to have some strong passing and dribbling skills.

This is the third game where the US will be starting the same back line. This is also Oguchi Onyewu’s third match starting. The defense and in particular Oguchi Onyewu should look a bit more organized and in sync. Onyewu will, however, probably still not be at the top of his game.

The US back line could struggle in this game because the Algerians seem to have good team speed. In addition the Algerian attack down the right wing could be effective due to Carlos Bocanegra’s relative lack of speed.  A speedy and more defensive winger like DaMarcus Beasley might be able to help prevent Algerian attacks down the left of the US defense. Of course do you want to put on Beasley in place of Donovan or Dempsey. No. Then again, should Dempsey start up top with Altidore, we might see Beasley on the left and Donovan on the right. However, most likely we will see Holden ahead of Beasley, which would put Donovan on the left and Dempsey up top.

The center of the midfield will most likely be Bradley and Edu as this combination has coincided with the best of US play so far. Torres didn’t play very well against Slovenia, and Clark lacks the killer instinct Edu has in the penalty box. Putting Edu on the field seems to increase our chances of scoring on set pieces. He has made a number of scrappy plays in the box for Rangers and the US, and he showed his ability against Slovenia only to have the referee rob him.

Of course, Clark seems to be the best pure defensive midfielder and makes great defensive plays, even if he commits too many fouls. Altidore is sure to start up top unless his recent sickness keeps him out. Both Gomez and Buddle seem like attractive options to start in place of Findley, who lost his opportunity due to accumulated and unearned yellow cards. What were the referees thinking?

However, a more attractive option would be to have Dempsey start up top alongside Altidore. This possibility changes the midfield as discussed previously. Most likely Bradley will not start Dempsey up top because Bradley seems to like the strategy of switching Donovan and Dempsey back and forth with both sneaking into the center of the pitch. So, expect to see Gomez or Buddle up top to start. Buddle seems like the more likely option simply because Bradley appears to like using Gomez as a super sub later in games.

The Algerians played pretty well against the English and the Slovenians. They only lost to the Slovenians based on the poor play of their keeper. The Algerians have also shown some flair and speed in the attack, which makes them dangerous. Beyond that, the Algerians still have the possibility of making it through to the round of 16, so they have a good reason to fight. To go through, they have to win, so they are going to look to attack. They can’t afford to sit back and defend tightly against the US. Furthermore, the apparent weakness of the US at the beginning of games means that the Algerians will probably try to throw a lot forward for the first 10 to 15 minutes.

The US will need to keeps its composure and organization and should aim to sit back and absorb pressure early on and play with a counterattack. Landon Donovan’s speed will make him the perfect weapon on the counter attack. Altidore’s speed and strength might also pay off. After about 15 minutes the US should start looking more composed and ought to start pressing the Algerians offensively.

If the US starts off like they did against Slovenia in the 2nd half, then I would expect to see two goals for the US early on. This is unlikely considering the long trend of shaky, nervous moments for the US at the beginning of matches. Taking everything together I would predict that the final score is 2-1 USA. The US will be able to break down the Algerians to score at least once from the run of play. The Algerians will have to foul the Americans near the box, so I would suspect a goal off a set piece also. However, the Algerians will be attacking and their speed will cause problems that will lead to a goal.

Finally, the referee should be better than what the US has seen so far as Fifa claims it is specially appointing a strong Belgian referee for the match. The US needs a win to guarantee going through to the round of 16. A draw might work if the English and the Slovenians draw because the US has scored more goals than the English. What do you think of the US chances against Algeria? Who do you think should start? What do you think the final score will be?

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