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USA vs. Slovenia: At World Cup, Americans rally for 2-2 tie

Americans mount a furious rally, including goals by Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, to claim a 2-2 draw with Slovenia on Friday.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 19, 2010

JOHANNESBURG -- Maurice Edu's volley splashed into Slovenia's net in the 85th minute Friday, and for an instant, the U.S. national soccer team believed it had punctuated an epic comeback with a late go-ahead strike.

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But amid the bedlam that erupted at Ellis Park, referee Koman Coulibaly nullified the goal. The assistant referee had not raised his flag to signal an offside call. TV replays from every conceivable angle offered few clues. According to the U.S. players, Coulibaly declined to offer an explanation. Somewhere in the mass of players storming the six-yard box, he had spotted a foul.

And just like that, controversy and fury had taken hold of an otherwise unremarkable World Cup.

On a call that will be reviewed, examined, scrutinized, second-guessed and analyzed for weeks, if not years, to come, Coulibaly waved off Edu's apparent goal, leaving the exhausted teams locked in a 2-2 draw in front of a pro-American crowd of 45,573.

"I was overwhelmed with emotion at that point, pure excitement, full of joy, and then disappointment," said Edu, a former University of Maryland midfielder. "I thought that was the moment that we won the game, and then in a matter of seconds, it all changed."

Coulibaly's decision changed the course of the gripping match, slowed the Americans' march to the tournament's round of 16 and contributed to the chaos in Group C heading into the final two matches Wednesday.

With a victory over Algeria (0-1-1) in Pretoria, the United States (0-0-2) will secure passage. It can also advance with a tie if England -- also 0-0-2 but with fewer goals scored -- loses to Slovenia (1-0-1) or earns a tie but fails to erase the Americans' two-goal edge in overall tournament scoring.

Friday's match will be remembered most for the contentious ending. But it will also be remembered for the United States conceding another early goal and for Slovenia, the third-smallest nation ever to compete in a World Cup, extending the lead just before halftime.

It will be remembered for career scoring leader Landon Donovan inspiring the uprising after the break with a marvelous display of ball distribution in the run of play and on set pieces.

Despite the result, "It's still a point that gets us closer to where we want to be," said Donovan, who scored in the 48th minute, helped set up Michael Bradley's equalizer in the 82nd and served the free kick that led to Edu's disallowed goal.

It marked just the fourth time in U.S. history that the national team had earned a point after trailing by two goals at the half (1-30-3).

Said goalkeeper Tim Howard, "I feel fortunate to come out of it, still alive to go through" to the round of 16.

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