First, it was a goal. See here, for example; who is fouling whom?
Clear in the picture, the world’s greatest referee[*] has a clear view of the action as an on side Edu scores the third goal for the US. h/t Mark Devlin for the link.
I have heard one plausible counter argument to this event, (see also here), but one that runs counter to normal practice: the ref saw this and decided to halt play immediately rather than allow the play to run its course. Of course, how this evolved into a Slovenian free kick is still anybody’s guess.
[*] at least until another ref makes an equally egregious blunder in the next week or so, and one will.
But that was yesterday. Thanks to England being, well, England against Algeria, the fate of the US MNT is still in its own hands. Beat Algeria, and they’re through, period. It’s turned out to be an interesting group — certainly not the “EASY” group that The Sun so typically predicted when it was drawn. Going into the final two matches on Wednesday, every side can still qualify. If Algeria beat the United States, and England do no better than a turgid draw against Slovenia, then it’s Slovenia and Algeria who qualify out of the group.
The NYT — especially in the comments — has a good breakdown of the tie-breaking rules here. The only way it gets technical from an American perspective is if both the US and England draw: that would result in a table of Slovenia 5, US 3, England 3, Algeria 2. Then it comes down to goal differential, but by definition at three draws apiece, both England and the US would be level on that criterion. Then it’s goals scored. Here the US currently have a two goal advantage. If England draw 2-2 while the US draw 0-0, (or 5-5 and 3-3, etc.) then it comes down to flipping a coin.
I have no idea how England will fare against Slovenia. I’ve been watching England from this side of the Atlantic for ten years now, I’ve long since given up on predicting just which England side will turn up. As for the US, I have to think we will beat Algeria. They’re a solid side, well organized, but in both group matches they have played a very contained, defensive game — they’ve yet to score a goal. They have to win to progress, while for the US, a draw could suffice (if England lose, or if England draw while scoring fewer goals in the three games than the US). The US will not be playing for a draw, because an England victory requires a US victory as well, and the matches are simultaneous, but Algeria will have to go forward and stretch it out a bit, which plays into the strengths of the US side. Algeria will likely score, the US defense has not been stellar this tournament (when is it ever?) but the US should score a couple, minimum.
2-1 to the USA.
Regardless, this group hasn’t played out in quite the way many of us thought it would.