Tired of having to rally from early deficits, the United States aims to score first and make things less complicated when it take on Algeria in their decisive World Cup Group C match on Wednesday.
So far, the Americans have salvaged two draws, after dropping an early goal to England and going down 2-0 in the first half against Slovenia. It's a scenario they would rather avoid when they face Algeria in Pretoria.
"We can all go around and say, 'hey, lets get an early lead,' but that doesn't always translate on the field," said Clint Dempsey, who scored the equalizer in the opening 1-1 draw with England. "So it's a little bit more hard work and concentration and hopefully a little bit of luck, we can get on the right end of the score early on."
The United States will advance to the round of 16 if it beats Algeria. A draw would suffice if England loses to Slovenia. If the United States and England both draw, the Americans would advance provided they end up with more goals scored than the English _ currently the U.S. has three goals, while England has one. A draw will not be enough if England wins, and a defeat would definitely send the Americans home early.
Algeria's outlook is bleaker, with only one point after a 1-0 loss to Slovenia and a scoreless draw with England. Anything less than victory will spell the end of their tournament, and even if they win, the North Africans would be eliminated if group leader Slovenia loses narrowly to England.
Given the stakes, Algeria striker Karim Matmour is not expecting a beautiful game against the United States.
"Today's football is very physical. Skill is just for the final meters," Matmour said. "I'm quite happy to see everybody play the most simple game possible."
The Americans, too, are expecting a bruising battle, with both teams keeping a compact defense _ at least early on. "Initially it's going to be a game that's going to be tight," Dempsey said. "And then as the game goes on, seeing how things go, it's going to have to open up, no matter what. People are going to start taking risks because we know that pretty much a draw is not going to get you through."
U.S. striker Robbie Findley is suspended after receiving his second yellow card against Slovenia, while Abdelkader Ghezzal is back for Algeria after a one-match suspension following a red card in the opening game.
For Algeria, the World Cup started with the kind of turmoil that has since swamped bigger teams like France.
Coach Rabah Saadane dropped captain Yazid Mansouri on the eve of Algeria's first match. The experienced midfielder reportedly threatened to walk out of the team but was persuaded to stay by Algerian football federation officials.
The team now looks happy and confident. "If Algeria plays to its potential we don't need to worry about our opponents," Matmour said. "If we play our style of football we can beat anyone."
The Algerians have studied the United States' dramatic fightback against Slovenia, with second-half goals from Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley. A third U.S. goal was disallowed in the final minutes.
"They keep fighting," striker Hassan Yebda said. The lesson to Algeria, he said: Even if they score first "we have to keep going."