June 18, 2010
By Michael Lewis
“THEY STOLE A GOAL FROM US”
Historic U.S. comeback overshadowed by disallowed goal
JOHANNESBURG -- Mother said there would be days like this, a day that will be talked about for a very long time, not just in the United States, but throughout the entire world.
|Michael Bradley scored the equalizing goal for the U.S., then had to be restrained from pursuing referee Koman Coulibaly after the game to protest his nullification of Maurice Edu’s apparent game-winner.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The U.S. should have left Ellis Park Friday night proud of the fact the team had battled back from a two-goal second-half deficit to stage its greatest World Cup comeback, a remarkable 2-2 draw with Slovenia.
Instead, the Americans departed fuming and bewildered as to why they did not emerge as winners after Maurice Edu's goal was disallowed in the 85th minute of the Group C encounter.
Edu thought he had tallied the winner in the 85th minute, but referee Koman Coulibaly of Mali nullified the goal without giving an explanation as to which player committed the foul in what has to be the Cup's most controversial decision up to this point. It appeared that that Clint Dempsey had fouled Slovenian Adnras Kirm in the penalty area.
“I’m a little gutted, to be honest,” midfielder Landon Donovan said. “They stole a goal from us.”
And two points as well.
Had the Americans emerged with a victory, they would have been in the drivers seat in their quest to reach the second round. They are still very much alive, in second place with a 0-0-2 record and two points. Slovenia (1-0-1, four points) leads the group. England (0-0-2) has two points after its scoreless tie with Algeria (0-1-1, one).
The Americans can secure passage by defeating Algeria on Wednesday or by tying and England loses to Slovenia or if both teams play to a draw, as long as they maintain their goal-scoring edge. The U.S. has three goals, England one.
"This is a must win," former MetroStars goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "We're still standing. We're still fighting. Depending on how a few results go. We're still in a really good position. We still can control what we can do."
But the Americans could not control what transpired after midfielder Michael Bradley gave his dad, U.S. coach Bob Bradley, an early Father's Day present with his equalizer in the 82nd minute.
After a Slovenian foul, Donovan, who scored the first goal in the comeback, sent a free kick from the right side that Edu volleyed into the net, but Coulibaly whistled no goal.
At first, it was assumed there was an offside call, but the assistant referee did not have his flag raised. There was a foul, but it was a mystery to the Americans as to which player was called. They asked Coulibaly, who speaks English, but he did not reply.
According to TV replays watched after the match, it appeared Dempsey had shoved Kirm to free himself just as the play began. Coulibaly appeared to have called a foul before Edu scored.
"It was frustrating," said U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra, who said he had been "bear-hugged" on the play. "From what I heard, quite a few guys were getting tackled on that play. If there was any foul, it was against their team. FIFA had a meeting with us at the beginning of the tournament on how grabbing and pulling on free kicks is not going to be allowed. It works against us this time."
Michael Bradley had to be restrained from going after the referee after the game.
The controversy overshadowed a remarkable second-half comeback, one of the great second-half rallies in the 80-year history of the tournament.
For the second consecutive game, the Americans found themselves behind early -- they allowed England to take a 1-0 lead in the 1-1 draw last week -- as they gave Valter Birsa all sorts of room on his 25-yard rocket past Howard in the 13th minute. Central defender Oguchi Onyewu allowed Zlatan Ljubijankic to slip by him to score from eight yards in the 42nd minute, giving Slovenia a seemingly commanding 2-0 lead.
“We started the match poorly. We were tentative," Donovan said. "I think we sat too deep which caused us problems. At that point you have no choice but to push the game."
Added Howard: "We seem to play better when we’re behind and that’s all got to change."
But the U.S. refused to roll over and die.
"My guess is there aren’t many teams in this tournament that could have done what we did, and arguably win the game," Donovan said. "That is what the American spirit is about and I’m sure people back home are proud of that."
Donovan, who was fed by right fullback Steve Cherundolo, took advantage of a slip by Bostjan Cesar on the right flank and motored in alone on goal before rifling a point-blank shot into the top of the net in the 48th minute.
"If there had been an option across the goal, I probably would have rolled it across the goal," Donovan said. "But in the end I decided to take a touch, aim high and aim at his head, and I don’t think he wanted to get hit from there.”
It was Donovan's third career World Cup goal and first since the 2002 competition.
Bradley, who played a strong game at central midfield, equalized in the 82nd minute. Donovan sent a long ball into the area that Jozy Altidore headed to Bradley, who knocked home the shot.
It was the first time a son had scored for his father as a coach in the World Cup