Ref Decision Takes Away From Bigger Story

It’s a shame that over 48 hours later, many people are still talking about the USA goal vs Slovenia that was wrongly taken away by Referee Koman Coulibaly of Mali. Had the Maurice Edu goal counted, as it clearly should have, then the USA would have staged an even greater comeback than they did, and three points would have been theirs, instead of one.

It’s hard to imagine which was sadder:

Coulibaly’s blown call in the end?

His overall game?

Or the fact that FIFA does not make the referee, nor themselves, accountable to give anyone a proper explanation of the call?

Maybe all three are equal. But enough about the referee who is most likely done for this tournament as a main official. That would be my guess as I write this, although with FIFA, stranger things have happened.

Let’s talk about the comeback, which was this team’s greatest in their World Cup history. Trailing 2-0 vs a good Slovenia team, the USA rallied in the second half to score two (really three) to tie the match (really win it) and set the stage for a dramatic final game next Wednesday vs Algeria.

Once again, the USA made things difficult for themselves in terms of giving up two first half goals. In the second half you could see a difference.

Head Coach Bob Bradley made two changes that helped the team. Bringing on Maurice Edu for Jose Torres, and Benny Feilhaber for Robbie Findley. With those personnel moves, Bradley then moved Clint Dempsey up top with Altidore. The intensity picked up dramatically at the start of the second half.

Landon Donovan took over the game, physically and emotionally. His goal gave the USA life. In the second half Jozy Altidore fought for every ball, which he was not doing in the first 45 minutes. Players were giving more of themselves. It was that great American spirit and never say die attitude that brought this team back. The passes were crisper, the runs were better, the chances increased, all in that second half.

What looked like a loss, and most likely an early end to this World Cup, was turned into a draw. Had the game ended up 2-2 without any controversy, the USA would think of this as a win, since they came from two goals down. But under the circumstances of a good goal called bad, the U.S. team left the stadium feeling more like they lost than anything else.

Now, days later, they must feel like winners. Winners that can advance on Wednesday when Group C concludes. The USA have put themselves in a good place. They have a chance to advance just by winning against the weakest team in the group. They don’t need any other result to go their way, as long as they beat Algeria.

Forget the controversy, forget the referee. Remember to bring your best on Wednesday. If the U.S. team does this, they will be in the round of 16.