The U.S. Soccer Team plays a pivotal match against Slovenia in Johannesburg Friday at South Africa's World Cup. Our correspondent had a chance to hear from some of the players at a media session near their home base in Centurion, north of Johannesburg.
U.S. Soccer Team players are feeling mostly relieved they got a point in their opening match, a 1-1 draw against England in which the Americans' goal came on a blunder by England's goalkeeper Robert Green.
But the focus now is on Slovenia, the team that leads Group C after its 1-0 win over Algeria. Algeria plays England Friday in Cape Town.
U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley, head coach Bob Bradley's son, says they know Slovenia will be a formidable opponent.
US midfielder Michael Bradley, 17 Jun 2010
"To come out of Europe and qualify for the World Cup is no small feat," said Michael Bradley. "I think they played 10 games in qualifying and gave away only four goals, I believe. So you can see not only through that, but when you watch them play how hard they work. They get after you. They close you down. They make the game hard."
U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu sized up what he expects to face from the Slovenian attack.
"They look like they are strikers that work for the team," said Oguchi Onyewu. "You know they are hard workers. They run all across the field. You know, they are going to give trouble to the defenses. They are going to do the dirty work in order for their team to come out on top. But we are ready for that and it's nothing that we haven't seen before. And we just have to go out there on Friday and play the way that we know how to play."
Tim Howard is expected to be back in goal for the U.S. team despite taking a hard kick to his upper chest area from England's Emile Heskey while making a diving clearance on a dangerous cross. Howard stayed on the ground for three minutes after the play in the 29th minute but stayed in the game. At half-time he had a cortisone injection to help with the pain.
He says he will be ready to play against Slovenia.
"I think time is a good healer," said Tim Howard. "I've had a few days. It's just going to be sensitive but, as you know, when you play at the highest level I think you have to play through injuries. I don't think anyone is 100 percent you know. It's sore but I believe, as I have said before, adrenalin being the great equalizer, you can't account for that. When you get on the field your mind is focused on the game and it takes away from the pain. And you have plenty of pain meds [medications] and injections and all that type of stuff which will help keep your mind off it as well."
Besides the two Group C games on Friday, Germany will play Serbia in a Group D match. The Germans won their opener against Australia, 4-0, and Serbia fell to Ghana, 1-0.
Serbia central defender Neven Subotic, who played for United States youth national teams, will start for the suspended Aleksandar Lukovic against Germany. Subotic spent part of his youth growing up in Salt Lake City and played for the U.S. Under-17 and Under-20 teams. But after coach Thomas Rongen left him off the roster for the 2007 Under-20 World Cup, he switched allegiance to Serbia, part of the Yugoslav nation when he was born in Banja Luka in 1988.