Coming out of their first match, the U.S. got themselves an earned point.
USA beats Slovenia: The USA enters the final game of group stage in a great position, tied with England for the group lead with four points, while Slovenia sits right behind with three. Depending on the goal differential, the USA will have at least a faint idea for how many goals they would need to beat Algeria by to win the group on goal differential.
(Note, all four teams play at the same precise time next Wednesday, June 23rd.)
The U.S. is, then, the favorite to beat Algeria and take the group, but a draw against the Desert Foxes advance the US as well.
That would likely mean a round of 16 date with the Germans, the ghost of Torsten Frings’ evil to be exorcised. A loss against the Desert Foxes still could get the U.S. through, but that would then depend on wins and goal differentials in the England-Slovenia match.
USA draws with Slovenia: Not a terrible result at first blush, but dig a little deep and D-R-A-W spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
The USA then enters the final game with a clear need: Beat Algeria and likely by a few goals.
If the USA beats Algeria–and let’s add by more than one goal, they are not assured of advancement, but may have at least an upperhand as Slovenia and England will both be battling and that game should remain close–again assuming England took care of Algeria.
Assuming either England or Slovenia win, the U.S. would clinch second place in the group, leading to another unfortunate match-up with Germany.
The draw has the Yanks watching the scoreboard next Wednesday and sends them on their way to face the Germans perhaps. Not rosy, but at that point, they’ll take it.
USA loses to Slovenia: The Yanks, then, are in a world of hurt.
Unless England itself can manage to get three or less points in its two remaining matches, the U.S. is going home and Bob Bradley is likely putting on dress pants for a new job interview. No matter what they can still technically be alive if they beat Algeria, a loss to the Slovenia is has them on life support.
In the end, the USA has a pretty clear objective for the group if they want to make a run: win out, starting with Slovenia. Winning the group gives the U.S. a clear, reachable path to the semi-finals. They would likely face Ghana or Serbia in the round of 16, then the victor of whichever mediocre team that wins Group A or South Korea/Nigeria. Not an easy path by any means, but extremely doable, and the U.S. could very well be favored to reach the semifinals.
A win against the Slovenians also may get the Yanks something else, perhaps a Brad Guzan cameo to rest Tim Howard’s ribs and perhaps a look at one or two new players to gain valuable Cup experience ahead of the knock out round.
If the U.S. were to take second place, the path is much harder. Up first would most likely be Germany, a side that looked to steam-rolling to the Finals in its World Cup debut. If the U.S. were to get past Germany, waiting for them would be one of the world’s most talented clubs: Argentina. Only perhaps Jonathan Bornstein, whose finest career moment came in shutting down Messi in the ’07 Copa America, would be excited for that match-up.