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Hard work by U.S. brings success, relief
By Orrin Schwarz | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 6/24/2010 12:00 AM

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This is not a dream.

It definitely isn't a nightmare.

And it's no flashback to the 2009 Confederations Cup, when the United States needed a miracle to climb out of group play - and got that miracle.

This is no miracle, though it did make for heart-pounding, gut-wrenching, pacing-a-path-in-your-carpeting viewing.

This is the result of persistence and poise and hard work and teamwork. And instead of heartbreak and excuses, there's a sense of relief and success.

The Americans' 1-0 victory Wednesday over Algeria at the World Cup was the deserved result. The United States was simply the better team, though somewhat unlucky.

If anything, that was a game the Americans could have won 3-0 or 4-1, if not for another blown call, this time by an assistant referee (admit it, your first reaction after seeing the ball ripple the net was to look for the ref again), some poor finishing and some very good goalkeeping.

Landon Donovan played a good game, but he was great when he needed to be.

Clint Dempsey proved dangerous throughout the game, even if he was frustrated by the referees, Algeria goalkeeper Rais Bolhi and some poor shooting.

The goal wouldn't have happened without Tim Howard's quick thinking and strong right arm.

Jozy Altidore lived up to his potential, though he too had one of the key misses, sending a shot high from 6 yards out.

UIC grad Jay DeMerit was a rock defensively.

Substitutes Edson Buddle and DaMarcus Beasley were sound, and Benny Feilhaber was a force on the ball.

But the game flowed through Michael Bradley in the central midfield. With help from partner Maurice Edu until Edu came out of the game in the 65th minute, Bradley, a former Palatine resident, made the tackles he needed to make and the passes he needed to make, setting the tempo for the U.S.

Bradley, 22, continues to grow and might be the second-most important player on the team, behind Donovan.

While France heads home with its tail between its legs and Serbia follows, and the futures of Italy and Spain both remain in doubt, the United States advances with more points in group play than rival Mexico.

Now the Americans move on to face Ghana (1:30 p.m. Saturday). A win there and the United States meets the Uruguay-South Korea winner in the quarterfinals.

All three of those teams are tough, but none are scary. Maybe the Americans can reach the semifinals, maybe not.

Either way, we know they'll make it interesting.

Fire update: Major League Soccer ends its World Cup break this weekend, with the Fire traveling to New England to play the Revolution on Sunday (6 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).

The Fire begins U.S. Open Cup play at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when it hosts the Charleston Battery at Toyota Park. All tickets are $15 for that game.

Red Stars update: The Red Stars are trying to get things right under new coach Omid Namazi, but last weekend's loss to the previously winless Atlanta Beat set them back.

The Red Stars continue their road trip Friday night with a game at Boston.