Donovan thinks best is yet to come for U.S. soccer team
IRENE, South Africa - Landon Donovan thinks the best is yet to come for the U.S. soccer team.
"The two World Cups I'd been a part of [2006 and '02], we hadn't strung together three consecutive good results and good performances," he said yesterday. "I think this team has the experience and the ability to do that, and we'll find out [Wednesday] night."
By beating Algeria, the U.S. would advance from the group phase for the first time in eight years. Even with a draw, the U.S. could advance as long as England doesn't beat Slovenia - or tie Slovenia and wipe out the American advantage in goals scored in the process.
Algeria, coming off a 1-0 loss to Slovenia and a 0-0 tie with the English, can advance only with a victory. That likely means wide-open play.
"Their approach to the game would likely be an aggressive approach to try to get a goal and win the game," Donovan said. "A lot of our guys play with or have played with or against their players. As a team, collectively, they can be unpredictable, and on their day, they are a very, very good team."
On the first day of winter in South Africa, the U.S. held its last practice at Pilditch Stadium before the match. Because FIFA wants to preserve the field at Loftus Versfeld, the site of the match, today's training was moved to Eersterust Stadium in Pretoria.
"They have a lot of guys who are skillful on the ball and who like to get the ball in dangerous areas and run by guys or be creative in their own way and get shots," said Michael Bradley, a teammate of Algerian midfielder Karim Matmour on Borussia Moenchengladbach. "Certainly Karim is good at that - his ability to use his speed to run by defenders and to get shots and crosses. I know that well. I play with him every week. So that's something that we need to keep an eye on. But when you look at their whole team, they have a lot of different threats."
With both teams facing elimination, it figures to be a fiercely fought game. "Today's football is very physical. Skill is just for the final meters," Matmour said. "I'm quite happy to see everybody play the most simple game possible."
Algeria, eliminated in the first round in 1982 and 1986, reached the World Cup for only the third time.
Needing a three-goal victory over Egypt to reach last June's Confederations Cup final - and doing just that - taught the Americans that they can overcome adversity.
That lesson was intensified in this World Cup, when the U.S. rallied to tie England, 1-1, and then came back from a two-goal halftime deficit to tie Slovenia, 2-2. The Americans nearly won that one, too, but Maurice Edu's 85th-minute goal was disallowed for reasons that remain unclear because referees don't have to explain their decisions.
Donovan said the team is fortunate to have had a lot of experiences "that have brought us together, both good and bad."
"Being down 2-0 with your World Cup on the line is a difficult and daunting task to overcome," he said, "but the way we've been hardened in a lot of ways over the years has made that possible, and I think we're extremely excited for [tomorrow]."