It won't be pretty. It may be less entertaining than the United States' match against England, and although that has been said so many times in the last week that the refrain has become cliché, it does not make it any less true. The United States' match with Slovenia on Friday could look just as bad as Slovenia's opener against Algeria.
In that way, soccer is a lot like boxing. You get two sluggers in the ring, you're in for firepowers. A slugger and a technician, and you've got an interesting clash of styles. Two technicians and you have a bout that looks like a series of 10-10 rounds.
The United States and Slovenia is like Pernell Whitaker shadow boxing.
For a United States team who considers this a must-win match, that is a dangerous proposition. We are unlikely to see goals, and as the match goes on, the United States may start pressing for three points, the exact circumstance that Slovenia is built to exploit. Whitaker made his money counter-punching. If the United States becomes too aggressive, they are likely to see their ambition backfire.
But the must-win talk has been coming from the players. Does Bob Bradley, normally conservative in approach feel the same way? Because while a more measured approach likely puts the United States closer to a draw than a win, it also makes the United States far more likely to win than lose.
United States, Going Forward: Normally reliant on their counter-attack and opponent mistakes, the States also have strength down the wings through Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. Dempsey and Donovan, however, represent different types of threats. Donovan is a playmaking presence, usually down the right, who should be able to beat Bojan Jokic and create off his right foot. For a compact Slovenia side, they will need to stay organized and prevent United States attackers, specifically Jozy Altidore, from getting space in the area to exploit when Donovan gets room to cross.
Dempsey is more of a scoring threat than Donovan, more apt to cut-back toward the middle and try to get a shot-off on his right foot. There it becomes more than right back Milos Brecko's responsibility. Brecko needs help from Aleksandar Radoslavjlevic when Dempsey cuts-in, but off-the-ball, Brecko must stay aware of Dempsey's threat at the far post, where the U.S. attacker can also take advantage of Donovan's work.
Aside from the wingers and periodic spells of freakish athleticism from Jozy Altidore, the United States' greatest threat will be from set pieces, where Donovan's service makes the likes of Carlos Bocanegra dangerous. Slovenia is not prone to fouling, but if they do, they will be at a disadvantage defending dead ball plays.
Slovenia, Going Forward: Slovenia is even more reliant on opposition mistakes than the United States, lacking a Donovan or Dempsey to threaten from midfield. They do, however, have an interesting striker combination in Milivoje Novakovic and Zlatko Dedic, with Dedic's activity often opening-up space which Novakovic can exploit with the help of Radoslavjlevic and central midfield partner Robert Koren.
The matter in which this usually happens is Dedic running to support the build-up and dragging defenders with him when his presence looks to give the Slovenes an advantage at the point of attack. The space created when the defense adjusts opens-up scoring opportunities for the Slovenes and Novakovic.
But most of Slovenia's goals come through opportunism, be it in the counter or in identifying the places the opposition is allowing them to attack. They are not a creative side, and as such, they have a difficult time against a team that is conservative in attack and accountable in defense.
How The Match Turns: The United States have three players whose individual talents can beat the Slovenia defense, but they are just as likely to make a mistake in defense. The type of error that allowed Steven Gerrard a goal in the States' Saturday match with England will be exploited by Slovenia. Unfortunately for the United States, they are relatively prone to those errors, and Novakovic is far less likely to miss his opportunities than Emile Heskey. Fortunately, Bob Bradley is a naturally conservative coach who is unlikely to expose his team to such errors when matched against equally conservative opposition.