By MIKE MUDD
One Great Season
Some nuggets to chew on from the opening games in Group C, and looking ahead to the second round:
+ I gotta be honest, the last time I saw a goalkeeper botch a save like the one England's Robert Green did against the United States was probably when I was playing under-12 ball. I was racking my brain all weekend trying to remember when I saw that kind of slip-by from a top-level goalkeeper. And I just couldn't think of one, personally. It was an unbelievable error on the world stage. In the World Cup, that could be a once-in-a-lifetime blunder.
+ That said, props to England defender Jamie Carragher, who said Monday he thinks Green should remain in goal for Friday's match against Algeria. "Every player in the squad has been there where we've made a big mistake in a big game. But the reason that you are playing for England and you get to this level is that you have a certain amount of mental strength," Carragher said. This type of public talk from his teammates could be just the tonic Green needs to go on and have a great rest of the tournament.
+ The Americans' goal to earn a tie overshadowed the real storyline: The U.S. showed many weaknesses: They were mostly disorganized in midfield; sat way too far back in defense, allowing England to jam the ball down their throats, and were completely gased by the end of the game, hardly able to put any kind of passes or offense together in the final minutes. Bottom line: The U.S. did not look like a second-round team. I know the general feeling in the media and with the team was that they deserved the tie, but I just didn't see it.
+ Slovenia's win over Algeria now puts extra pressure on the U.S. The Slovenians not only have those cool Charlie Brown-zigzag striped looking jerseys, but also are a more confident and potent team than people gave them credit for. They like to counter-attack and have a great goalkeeper in Samir Handanovic. The U.S. will need to play better than it did Saturday to win. A loss would pretty much end hopes of advancement.
+ Tim Howard's sparkling performance in goal against England was the finest I had seen from a U.S. goalie since Sylvester Stallone's "Hutch" character saved about 200 shots against the Nazi guard team in the 1983 movie "Victory." And who has ever seen a finer save on a penalty kick than the one Hutch made at the end of the game? Yo Adrian, I did it!
+ Speaking of Howard, don't let any of this talk about bruised ribs fool you into thinking he won't play against Slovenia this week. The guy is a beast and by far the most talented and internationally-respected player on the U.S. squad. He's playing, and this game is too big for him to consider otherwise.
+ Quiz time: Raise your drink if you can name the U.S.'s backup goalies. Can't do it? That's OK, take a drink anyway. Howard's backups are Wolverhampton's Marcus Hahnemann and Aston Villa's No. 2 keeper Brad Guzan.
+ England will get a boost against Algeria. Midfielder Gareth Barry (Manchester City) has declared himself ready to play after recovering from an ankle injury. The English could use some better playmaking in the midfield to help start Wayne Rooney. I thought England looked strong in the opener, especially considering the lads traditionally have slow starts. Take away the mammoth goalkeeping error, and they look like a team which should go on to beat Algeria and move on.
+ The Slovenia-U.S. game will pit the largest country in the Cup against the smallest. Slovenia has about 2 million people, while the mighty U.S. boasts 300 million. This is the first meeting between the two countries in soccer.
+ Algeria captain Anther Yahia said Monday his squad will be more aggressive in its next game against England. I think the English defense will be more than up to the task, and I look for any bold play from the Algerians to lead to many English counter-attacks and goals. I look for a 3-0, 4-0 type of England victory.
+ Finally, check out this creative piece of multimedia from the Guardian newspaper in England. It's an animated, fussball recreation of the USA-England match. Enjoy!
Click here for Mike's bio and an archive of his previous stories.