How the U.S. Was Robbed In The World Cup

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Sean Justice/Corbis

Koman Coulibaly. Enough said.

Forget about Jim Joyce, the ump who created a firestorm by stealing a perfect game from the Detroit Tigers. He’s a saint compared to this guy.

Koman Coulibaly – who was born on July 4th, of all days – is the Malian soccer ref who officiated today’s crucial U.S.-Slovenia World Cup match. An American loss would have essentially sent the Yanks home. Slovenia, whose population of 2 million is the smallest of any nation in the tournament, took a stunning 2-0 going into halftime, the American soccer fans were already planning for 2014. Who can the U.S., the country with the Cup’s largest population, pick up on defense? Maybe borrow someone from the NBA for a month?

But in the 48th minute, Landon Donovan cemented himself as the best player in U.S. soccer history, firing a rocket at the face of Slovenian goalie Samir Handanovic from an impossible angle; Handanovic flinched like a fourth grader, and Donovan’s epic goal put the Americans on the board. You got the sense it was only a matter of time before the U.S. would tie it. And in the 82nd minute, the coach’s kid, Michael Bradley, broke free and punched in the equalizer.

At this point the U.S. might as well win the darn thing, right? On a free kick moments later, Landon Donovan delivered a beautiful ball into the box, which Maurice Edu knocked in to give the U.S. what looked like a historic victory. Gooooaaaal!!! But Coulibaly blew his whistle, and called a phantom foul on the Americans. The replay could not have been clearer: no infraction, the goal was legit. If anything, a hold on Bradley should have given the Americans a penalty kick (not that they would need it, since they scored the winning goal!)

Post-game, U.S. coach Bob Bradley was searching for answers. ESPN commentator, and former Team USA defender, Alex Lalas called Coulibaly’s call “a disgrace.” Lalas looked like he was about to cry.

He shouldn’t. The U.S. got robbed, but if group-mate England takes care of business the next two games, a win on Wednesday over Algeria will send the Americans to the round of 16.

Coulibaly’s nickname is “Sleepy Eyes,” because he comes across as fatigued while watching a match. And at one of the most crucial moments in American soccer history, looks like Sleepy Eyes took a nap.

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