A US team needing a victory over Algeria on Wednesday to ensure a place in the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup™ had last-minute concerns over its strikeforce on Tuesday after striker Jozy Altidore missed practice.
US coach Bob Bradley, already without suspended forward Robbie Findley for the crucial Group C match, said Altidore sat out training because he was feeling poorly. "Jozy just wasn't feeling well, but he will be fine for tomorrow," Bradley said.
There was no indication who might start alongside Altidore, who suffered an ankle injury in an earlier FIFA World Cup workout. US options include newcomers Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez plus veterans Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.
But there was a sense the US team was energized by coming back twice for draws in their two previous matches. "We felt very good about the pure effort that was put into the second half," Bradley said. "If we can build on that for this game, it's a good start for us to win an important match."
Slovenia lead the group on four points with the North Americans and England level on two points after a pair of draws and Algeria on one point. The North African side can still make the last 16 by defeating the US.
The Americans have never won a FIFA World Cup match in which they have trailed, making a first goal even more critical against the Desert Foxes even though Bradley played down the impact. "The game is 90 minutes. You always have to have an understanding of how to play those 90 minutes, the twists and turns the game can take," he said before admitting, "Certainly you would like to score first."
Also lurking in the thoughts of the North Americans are memories of a first-round exit from the 2006 FIFA World Cup at the hands of another African side, Ghana. US captain Carlos Bocanegra, who played in the 2006 side eliminated 2-1 by Ghana in the last group match, knows Wednesday's result will decide whether their 2010 FIFA World Cup was an improvement or not.
The game is 90 minutes. You always have to have an understanding of how to play those 90 minutes, the twists and turns the game can take.
"We obviously had a bad outing in 2006. We weren't happy with how things worked out," Bocanegra said on Tuesday. "We have a great chance to get a win and advance to the second round. It's important for us because we had that disappointment in '06. It's not extra motivation, but it's in the back of our minds."
Also in their thoughts will be the score of the Slovenia-England match being played at the same time. The Americans have the edge on England in terms of goals scored which can also come into the equation as to who qualifies. "It's important to know, especially as you get into the second half," Bradley said. "We will be into that and certainly factor in that information as we go out to try and win the game."
The US and Algerian teams were not allowed to practice at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday in order to preserve the quality of the pitch for Wednesday's match, with Spain and Chile set to practice and play there in the two following days.