Jozy Altidore of the United States is tackled by Marko Suler of Slovenia during the FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between Slovenia and USA at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. team isn't desperate for a win against Slovenia, but they are desperate to show they have improved and are growing
It was only 17 months ago that the United States and Slovenia squared off on a much bigger stage. It was at the World Cup and a match that got more than enough attention in South Africa thanks to a thrilling comeback by the Americans that should have resulted in a win, but instead was only good enough for a draw because Koman Coulibaly waved off what appeared to be a perfectly good game-winning goal for reasons that he has yet to explain.
The U.S. has undergone some huge changes since then though. They've brought in Jurgen Klinsmann to lead the team and he has the team playing very differently with some very different players. He's emphasized possession and has spoken of an attack-minded team. That hasn't really come about, at least not the attack-minded part. Until Friday's 1-0 loss to France, Klinsmann's side had regularly won possession and done well to knock the ball around, but they couldn't turn it into chances. They were ineffective in the attack and spent an incredible amount of time standing and watching when not on the ball.
Chances are going to be even harder to come by against Slovenia. They're one of the better defensive teams in Europe and will put numbers behind the ball, meaning that unless the U.S. is going to flash some sort of creativity that they've been completely without under Klinsmann, they'll have to be deadly on the counter-attack and on set pieces. Unfortunately, they haven't been the slightest bit dangerous on either of those lately.
Meanwhile, the Americans will be troubled defensively too. Slovenia isn't the most high-powered of teams, but they do have their threats. Tim Matavz is one of the best young strikers in the world and will be able to take advantage of any lapses along the U.S. back line, either in the air or getting in behind the defense on long balls over the top, which troubled the U.S. against France. Additionally, the Slovenians are very good on the counter-attack, meaning that they have to maintain their shape in a system they are still getting used to.
Exactly who Klinsmann will turn to is still in question. Both Maurice Edu and Danny Williams have been somewhere between average and awful for the U.S., possibly opening the door for Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson, but what seems logical and what Klinsmann does haven't exactly been the same. There's als a question at center back, where it could be the Carlos Bocanerga and Clarence Goodson pairing we saw against France, but Oguchi Onyewu (recently cleared after an injury) or Michael Orozco Fiscal could get a look.
Whoever Klinsmann chooses, the U.S. needs to show they can put out fires at the back and show some semblance or cohesion going forward. Goals or not, the Americans need to show they are capable of creating more chances because while France is a good team, the U.S. didn't create a single good chance in Paris and that is unacceptable. They also could have given up three or four if not for some sloppy finishing and Tim Howard's heroics. Slovenia isn't quite the team that France is, giving them a chance to open things up a bit and show some real improvement.
Klinsmann has said several times that he isn't so considered with results. Wins and losses don't really mean much and considering he has only played friendlies, the results don't really matter so he has a valid point, but while results might not be important, growth is. Klinsmann has just two FIFA international dates left to get his U.S. team to grow and build before June's World Cup qualifiers, meaning his team has to make the most of those two matches, the first of which is Tuesday against Slovenia.