If Friday's World Cup match between the United States and Slovenia represented a roller-coaster ride, the locking mechanism would have triggered in the middle of the final loop.
A deflating first half, followed by a wake-up call, then a superb U.S. comeback, capped off with a controversial, disallowed goal, eventually resulted in the Americans managing a 2-2 draw against Slovenia in Group C play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
"There was one moment in the second half where it seemed a point gained, and another where it seemed two points lost," former Chicago Fire and current U.S. head coach Bob Bradley said.
The drama of Friday's match was uncanny. The U.S. fell behind 2-0 in the first half with Slovenia's Valter Birsa and Zlatan Ljubijankic netting goals in the 13th and 42nd minutes, respectively.
But the Americans struck twice in the second half with Landon Donovan netting a laser of a shot over Slovenian goalkeeper Samir Handanovic from a difficult angle in the 48th minute. Then Michael Bradley, who once lived in Palatine, Ill., as a teenager and is competing in his first World Cup, tallied a dramatic equalizer in the 82nd minute, over Handanovic's gloves and just under the crossbar.
That goal would have been satisfying enough in the Americans' eyes. But it was the goal taken away from the squad that will dominate the talk over the next several days -- a disallowed 85th-minute goal from Maurice Edu off of Donovan's free kick.
The public relations-friendly response typically states that officiating is not the ultimate factor in the outcome of a game. But the U.S. flat-out were stripped of a go-ahead goal, and Malian referee Koman Coulibaly is the man responsible for it.
Even if you gave Coulibaly a long list of mulligans for his poor officiating throughout the run of play, he botched a call during the match's most critical free kick opportunity. The U.S. losing two points because of that sequence potentially could be the difference between advancing out of group stage and going home early.
The ongoing mystery is what the call was, because head coach Bob Bradley doesn't know. The players asked Coulibaly on the pitch and he had no response. Did he call a foul on Edu? Did he call offside? Was it an inadvertent whistle? Was there something else away from the ball? Every replay angle showed that the U.S. did not commit any type of violation, and just about every American player also was trying to make a run past the swarm of Slovenian bear hugs.
We are told not to dwell on an official's decision, but the fact that he did not have the confidence to state his case -- whether it was the correct call or not -- is unacceptable. Indecisiveness or the unwillingness to back your opinion are not traits worthy of any official, especially one in soccer's biggest stage.
Hours after the match, with fans and media alike wondering what the call was, U.S. Soccer provided a basic statement: "We have been told by FIFA there is no comment from the referee."
It was a bitter end to the U.S.'s rejuvenated second half.
Everyone in the U.S. camp can forget about this controversy if the Americans go out and defeat Algeria on Wednesday. That will get the U.S. past Group C play, as would a tie combined with an England loss to Slovenia, and a draw combined with a Slovenia-England tie as long as England does not outscore the U.S. by two-plus goals.
Coach Bradley will ingrain the notion of forgetting Coulibaly's botched call as any manager should as the team moves forward. The rest of us watching the Cup spectacle know that the U.S. should have four total points to its name instead of two.
For Coulibaly's sake, he better hope the U.S. tops Algeria if he wants this to be only a speed bump in his officiating career.