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U.S. ties Slovenia; Controversial call nixes win

The U.S. team forms a huddle prior to

The U.S. team forms a huddle prior to the World Cup Group C match between Slovenia and the U.S. at Ellis Park Stadium in Johnannesburg, Friday. (June 18, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

The United States, down 2-0 at halftime, came back to tie Slovenia in a thrilling Group C match in Johannesburg to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

The comeback was reason to celebrate for the Americans, but a controverisial call in the final five minutes spoiled the fun and prevented the U.S. from earning an improbable three points.

In the 86th minute, Landon Donovan sent a free kick into the box and what ensued resembled an all-out blitz on the gridiron with a bevy of holding violations. Through the madness, Maurice Edu found the ball on his foot and booted it in, but referee Koman Coulibaly saw something he didn't like and called off the goal.

The Americans were stunned, and even head coach Bob Bradley admitted in his post-game interview that he wasn't sure what foul was called. ESPN showed an offside graphic immediately after the play, but it was clearly some type of foul that was called as everyone seemed to be onside and there was no motion from the assistant referee.

The Americans, though disappointed, had to settle for one point, instead.

Slovenia, the smallest country in the tournament, took a 2-0 lead in the first half to shove the Americans against the wall. Valter Birsa scored first when he was given yards of open space and nailed a 25-yard strike into the right side of the net in the 13th minute that caught Tim Howard leaning the wrong way. Once again, the Americans were down early.

After a few furious attempts on net, the Slovenians countered late in the first half and Zlatan Ljubijanic finished a breakaway for a 2-0 halftime lead.

Bradley made a few changes at the half, inserting Maurice Edu in for Jose Torres and Benny Feilhaber into the midfield, pushing Clint Dempsey up top and subbing out Robbie Findley. Neither player made much difference individually, but the team played inspired after the halftime whistle.

Donovan cut the lead in half with a rocket of a shot, "roofing" his strike in the 48th minute past a helpless Samir Handanovic. The goal certainly opened up the field for both teams, as Slovenia showed they weren't intent on sitting back and packing the box for 45 minutes. 

The tying goal came in the 82nd minute courtesy of the coach's son, Michael Bradley. Donovan served another ball into the box, where Jozy Altidore elevated and directed the ball perfectly to a streaking Bradley, who caught the ball on a bounce and fired it past Handanovic.

Though the no-goal was the most controverisal call by Coulibaly, it wasn't his only one. Forward Robbie Findley has to sit out the Americans third match because he picked up a second yellow card against Slovenia after earning one against England the game before. He got the card for handling the ball in the box, but the ball appeared to hit his head. Findley has started both games for the U.S. so far, so Bradley will have to find another option and the U.S. loses its speediest player on the attack.

The U.S., which has two points through two matches, now must win its final match next Wednesday against Algeria. If England wins out and the Americans take care of business Wednesday, they're in. Of course, anything can happen. England takes on Algeria today at 2:30 p.m. We'll know more after that result.


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