JOHANNESBURG, June 18 – Midfielder Michael Bradley's late goal sealed the United States' fight back as they drew 2-2 with Slovenia at the World Cup on Friday night to keep their hopes of reaching the Last 16 alive.
Slovenia were heading to their second win of the tournament, and unexpectedly becoming the first team into the last 16, having led 2-0 at half-time thanks to goals by midfielder Valter Birsa and striker Zlatan Ljubijankic before the US fought back to force the equaliser.
First right-wing Landon Donovan scored a superb goal on 48 minutes, then the equaliser came with eight minutes left as US striker Jozy Altidore flicked on a header deep in the penalty area and Bradley – son of the coach Bob – fired his shot home.
Slovenia had got off to the ideal start when Auxerre’s Birsa drilled in a long-range shot from 30 metres out which flew into the back of the net with US goalkeeper Tim Howard rooted to the spot after 13 minutes.
Centre-back Oguchi Onyewu’s challenge on Birsa looked to have left the goalkeeper unsighted.
Slovenia centre-back Bostjan Cesar then picked up the first yellow card of the match when he fouled Altidore on 35 minutes and Francisco Torres’ free-kick forced the Slovenian goalkeeper into a diving save.
The US threatened with half-time approaching as a Bradley shot was saved off the line, but in the melee striker Robbie Findley was booked for hand ball and misses the next game against Algeria next Wednesday in Pretoria.
With three minutes left of the half, Ljubijankic latched onto a well-timed pass which split the US defence and drilled his shot past Everton’s Howard to make it 2-0 at the break.
US coach Bradley made two changes at the break bringing Maurice Edu in as a defensive midfielder and putting Benny Feilhaber on the wing.
It paid off as US Galaxy’s Donovan controlled the long-ball, dribbled into the area and drilled his shot into the roof of the net past Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic just three minutes into the half.
Slovenian centre-back Marko Suler was booked on 69 minutes for hauling down Altidore just outside the area and the forward managed to latch onto the end of the resulting free-kick but fired his shot at Handanovic.
With the US upping the pace, Slovenia’s left-wing Andraz Kirm also went into the referee’s book as did Bojan Jokic for a foul on Donovan just before Bradley’s late equaliser.
The US looked to have taken a sensational lead when Edu scored with time almost up, but the referee judged the goal off-side.
Both teams now have all to play for in their last group match when Slovenia play England in Port Elizabeth next Wednesday and the US face Algeria.
England play Algeria later on Friday in Cape Town.