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The US Should Play With a Chip on its Shoulder
Which US team will show up Wednesday morning against Algeria? Will it be the team whose shockingly poor defensive coordination allowed a goal in the first 15 minutes against both England and Slovenia? Or will it be the gritty team that battled back to tie both games, the team who in a just world would have won on a brilliant three-goal second half against Slovenia? (For those living under a rock, an inexplicable foul called against the US negated what would have been the game-winning goal in the 88th minute.)
But as frustrating as a stolen World Cup win is, there is a silver lining here. This call might be precisely what the US team needs to advance or even win the group. You see, this team performs well, but only with the right motivation. It can't seem to win simply because it is favored to do so. It needed a terrible first-half showing against Slovenia (population 2 million) to rally and play to its potential. It played well as an underdog against England. It is clear this team plays well with a little fire in its belly.
Following the game players rightly felt "gutted." But now that the dust has cleared, that emotion will shift. It will shift to anger. "We were robbed" will become the rallying cry at the US camp. So while an objectively bad call cost the Yanks two points in Group C standings, it could be what propels them further in the tournament.
Thanks to a 0-0 tie between Algeria and England, a simple truth exists: the US team controls its destiny. One win and they are through. The low scoring by others in the group, coupled with the fact that "goals for" is the first tie-breaker, puts the boys in red, white and blue in a strong position. They had some good luck against England and some tough luck against Slovenia. Now it is time to channel their frustration, play with a chip on their shoulder, and for God's sake get the ball to Landon Donovan.