Monday, June 21, 2010

World Cup 2010: Examining the Slow Starting Americans

When America was branded the "Land of Opportunity," I'm not sure the opportunity to score early goals on our national soccer team is what our founding fathers had in mind. If the sight of an opposing player celebrating a first-half tally against the Stars and Stripes looks familiar, that's because the U.S. has made a nasty habit of conceding earlier markers. Let's take a look at some of the frustrating statistics.

-Going back to 2002, the U.S. has allowed the opponent to open the scoring with a first-half goal in its last six World Cup group stage games. In four of those six matches, they gave up two first-half goals. Not surprisingly, none of those matches ended with a win.

-Those goals have a tendency to come very early- two goals in the first five minutes against Poland in 2002; a fifth minute goal against the Czech Republic to start the 2006 World Cup; and Steven Gerrard's fourth minute tally for England earlier this month.

-Since 1990, the U.S. has conceded 19 first-half goals in 17 group stage matches.

-The last time the U.S. shut out an opponent in the group stages? The famed 1-0 win over in England in 1950. The last 18 U.S. group stage opponents have all scored.

It should be noted that one match breaks the mold; a 2-0 win against Mexico in the Round of 16 eight years ago. In that match it was Brian McBride scoring in the eighth minute as the U.S. defeated their arch rivals.

Two encouraging signs to the trends noted above: the U.S. has managed to draw three of its last four World Cup matches despite surrendering the first goal. Prior to that, they had lost eight consecutive World Cup matches when giving up the first goal. And if ever there was a team ready to blanketed by a clean sheet, it's Algeria. The Desert Foxes haven't scored a goal in their last four World Cup matches. If Tim Howard and company can extend that steak to five, the U.S. should be on its way to the Round of 16.

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