So the big day is here Wednesday morning when the United States faces Algeria in Group C play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It is the U.S.'s final match of group play, and a lot is obviously on the line (coverage starts at 8:30 a.m., ESPN).
In the 2006 World Cup, the U.S. fell to Ghana, 2-1, to wrap up the group stage as the Americans were sent home packing. The American players don't want a repeat of that episode.
"Obviously we had a bad outing in 2006, and we're not happy with how things worked out," former Chicago Fire defender and U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra said at Tuesday's press conference. "We have a great chance [Wednesday] to get a win and advance on to the second round. It's important for us because we had that disappointment in '06. It's not really extra motivation, but it's in the back of our minds."
Here is a quick five-point list of why the U.S. better have a victorious Wednesday:
1. Win, and they're in. It simplifies things and avoids all of the other scenarios. As long as the Americans post a victory, they advance. A draw can work if England loses or posts a draw against Slovenia and the U.S. maintains a goal differential lead (currently a 3-1 U.S. advantage). Just get the victory.
2. It's a confidence booster. Look at these past two matches for the U.S. The draw against England looks adequate on paper, but based on the team's play against England and Slovenia, there simply were too many key lapses for American fans to feel confident about a deep run in the Cup. Start strong, hold a possession edge and maintain a high level of energy.
3. We can forget that referee. Are you sick of that highlight of Maurice Edu's disallowed goal against Slovenia? Tried of seeing that blank look on referee Koman Coulibaly's face and the lack of a response as to what exactly he called? Post a win on Wednesday and Coulibaly will be forgotten ... until FIFA feels the need to schedule him for a U.S. match again.
4. Algeria's supposed to be the weak link. Remember all that talk before the Cup about how the U.S. was fortunate to get a good group draw? It hasn't looked that way so far. The U.S. and England were supposed to be the clear-cut favorites since both squads are ranked in the top 15 of the world rankings. Algeria has the lowest ranking among the group at 30th. However, this year's Cup has had its share of upsets, so these FIFA rankings have lost some value.
5. It's for the good of the U.S. game. I am not going to be one of those detractors who thinks that if the U.S. does not advance past group play that it is going to hurt the state of the game of soccer in this country. That's not true, and the people attempting to make that argument simply are the ones who have not followed the sport in the first place. Soccer participation and the attention the Cup is getting are quite high. But ... an extended run into the World Cup would be a huge benefit for certain. The U.S. thinks it has the cohesive group to accomplish a good run, so the time is right for a global impact. We're just waiting to see it at the highest level.