OBETZ, Ohio – Frankie Hejduk has a pretty good idea what the U.S. players are thinking as they prepare for Friday’s second Group C match vs. Slovenia in Johannesburg.
The Crew defender, who played for the Americans in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups but missed out in 2006 due to injury, said the opening match jitters during a 1-1 tie with England are gone and a stronger performance should be expected.
“It’s a lot of nerves and a lot of stuff going on in the first game,” he said. “Now it’s time to relax and enjoy the game and play. You can concentrate on actually playing and not the buzz around the first game and the buzz watching the other games.”
“You see the World Cup and then you’ve got to play the game and your hearts pounding, passion is flying everywhere,” he added. “Now it goes down a step and your concentration is on the next two games.”
Although Slovenia defeated Algeria in their first match to top the table, Hejduk is confident the favored US side will pull through.
“Slovenia defends in numbers,” he said. “They’re a tough team to break down and then they try to counterattack. Those types of teams are always dangerous, but we should be able to break them down.”
Crew and US midfielder Robbie Rogers is just as positive.
“We’re going to win 2-0,” said Rogers, who made the team’s preliminary 30-man roster but didn’t make the final cut for South Africa. “We have some creative players that will score some goal.”
Rogers, like Hejduk, watched the draw vs. England with mixed emotions after not making the squad.
“I won’t lie to you,” Rogers said. “I was talking to the guys before the game and earlier in the week. Obviously, I was supportive of them but I was like, ‘God, I wish I was there.’”
“There was so much excitement and every player’s dream is the World Cup. I was happy we did well, but I was really close to being there.”
Hejduk hopes the U.S. come out of the match controlling their own destiny heading into the final group match against Algeria on Wednesday.
“If we win we’re going through to the next round,” Hejduk said. “This is a team we should beat. If we don’t beat Slovenia then we don’t deserve to advance. That’s not saying getting a point is the end of the world, but then you go into the last game against Algeria, a very unpredictable team. They’re one of those teams that could beat Brazil one game then lose the next to Malta.”