It appeared as if the United States was on the verge of elimination after falling behind, 2-0, early to Slovenia in a Group C match on June 18. Instead, the Americans marched back to earn a 2-2 draw, becoming the first team of the 19th FIFA World Cup to come back from a two-goal deficit.
The United States gave up the first goal of the game when its defense broke down, allowing Slovenia’s Valter Birsa to boot a shot past American goalkeeper Tim Howard during the 13th minute. Nearly 30 minutes later, Zlatan Ljubijankic abruptly ended the American squad’s growing momentum by scoring on a counterattack to increase Slovenia’s lead to 2-0.
But the U.S. eventually regrouped to pull the historic comeback off, thanks in large part to Landon Donovan, who scored a beautiful goal from the right corner during the 48th minute. Teammate Michael Bradley, son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley, tied the game during the 82nd minute with a powerful heel kick right down the middle of the net. With the goal, the United States became the 21st team in World Cup history to come back from being down two goals.
But nonetheless, U.S. players were frustrated after game officials erased what may have been a winning goal scored during the 86th minute. Donovan sent a free kick to the front of the goal, where Jozy Altidore headed it towards Maurice Edu for an easy score. But referee Koman Couilibaly disallowed the goal, calling a foul on the United States. However, instant replay showed no fouls by the Americans, and instead exposed two separate fouls that should have been called on Slovenia.
“I’m a little gutted to be honest,” Donovan told reporters. “I don’t know how they stole that last goal from us. I’m not sure what the call was. He (the referee) wouldn’t tell us what the call was.”
Following the game, the Americans (0-0-2) trailed Slovenia (1-0-1) for second place in Group C, tying with England after that team played to a scoreless tie the same day.