U.S. will be motivated vs. Slovenia
Despite what the players say in media, they will be focused on pregame prediction
Editor's note: Cobi Jones is the all-time leader in appearances (164) for the U.S. men's national team and a three-time ('94, '98, '02) World Cup participant. He was a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy from 1996 to 2007 and is now an assistant coach for the club. He will offer his thoughts before and after every U.S. game.
A little trash talking is good in every sport. So when Slovenia guaranteed a victory over the U.S., I thought it was a good thing.
To have that out there, it gives the U.S. a little more fire to do well. It's something that has been said and it's going to be put up on the bulletin board, for sure. All the U.S. players will be talking about it in the lockerroom and at the hotel -- everywhere -- to get fired up before the game.
As an outsider now looking in at that and actually being a former athlete, I think it's great and that's what sports is all about. I'm not the type who's there to say, "Let's just go out and play the game" and leave it at that.
Even though the players haven't seemed to make a big deal out of it, I guarantee you right now, they're downplaying it only in the media. Among themselves, they're talking about this guy -- Andrej Komac -- and wondering what is he thinking? Who is he to guarantee a victory? They're getting fired up to show this guy up as much as possible.
I don't think there's too much of a danger for the U.S. in this kind of situation. If the players were going out in the media, talking about it and hyping it up a lot, then maybe I'd be a little concerned. But they seem to have handled it well. It has been very calm in the media. But this is the World Cup so anything you can use to fire yourself up, I don't think there's any overhyping when it comes to this tournament.
Heading into this game, obviously there's a lot more emphasis with Slovenia being ahead of the group after their victory over Algeria. Right now Slovenia is sitting on top of the world and they're pretty confident.
But the U.S. is the favored team in this game. Despite that, I hope everyone realizes this Slovenia team is very good. It went through qualifying in Europe. It beat Russia to actually come through to make it to the big tourney. Let's not forget that. It has been known for stingy defense and a counter-attacking ability.
For the U.S., I would expect possibly some lineup changes. I wouldn't be surprised if Jose Torres gets some time here. He can be the type to create some chances for you in the midfield.
The U.S. is not going to want to play as well defensively as it did against England. I'm expecting some type of change there, but you never know. I'm not the coach though. It's Bob Bradley's decision.
Offensively, we're going to have to be able to create chances against a packed-in defense. They will be organized and packed in the back, and I imagine we're going to have to try to get around the outside to open them up and get crosses in the box. We will need to get some good strikers in there. You might see someone like Edson Buddle, someone who's on fire, to get involved and make a play.
On the other side, it's going to be necessary for our backline to be tuned in at every moment. There will be no time to slack off at all, the way we have in the past few games by giving up some early goals. That can't happen. When we're attacking, we need to know when things turn over and get back. Slovenia's goal is to counter-attack us so we need to be ready for that every time.
As far as being the favored team, it's definitely going to be a new thing for the U.S. at the World Cup level. It will be a change in mentality for these guys.
IT'S L.A., AND IT'S LIVE
For more coverage of the complete Los Angeles sports scene, visit ESPNLA.com. »
Up until the World Cup, we knew the three opponents but all the preparation was for the England game for the past few months, and now all of a sudden you have to switch and become the team that has to impose your game on the opponent. That's where the veterans are going to have to come in and get this team thinking in a different way. At the same time, you don't want to get overconfident either and take this other team lightly.
But it is a nice change. It's great to see the U.S. has reached the level and, moreso for me, that we are favored over a European country.
Tim Howard's injury is a concern, but I'm going to go off something I heard Juergen Klinsmann say the other day. I agree with him when he says that if Howard is in pain, he's going to take a few painkillers and everything's going to be just fine. You're not going to change your goalkeeper at this point in time unless it's something absolutely debilitating. I expect to see Tim Howard to be out there.
In the end, I think this match could see a 2-0 victory for the U.S., though it will be hard-fought and I know I'm going against the tradition of performances by the U.S. against European countries. I think we're going to have most of the play in this game and we should create a lot of opportunities. That being said, it all could depend on potential lineups. I hope we're going to go out as the team to impose our will. It would be good for us to make some changes, get some guys in there capable of doing some damage, especially to the backline. Slovenia will be content to sit back and let us pound our heads against the wall they put up and try to sneak a goal at the end.
Overall, in the tournament I've heard a lot of complaints about a lack of scoring, but it's great to see now that this second series of games in the first round that things are changing. Teams know what they need to do so they're looking to push, and that's a good change.
Hopefully that will continue Friday.