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On the counterattack, Zlatan Ljubijankic ran up the middle, took a pass and sent an 8-yard right-footed shot under Howard.
A pro-American crowd of 45,583 at Ellis Park that had been chanting "USA!" was silenced. Frustration showed when Donovan, wanting to take a free kick, shoved Jose Torres, who had the ball. Torres, a 22-year-old midfielder, started in place of the more defensive Ricardo Clark.
"Jose's a young kid who is playing in his first World Cup game," Donovan said. "It's just an emotional game and at the moment I wanted to let him know what I needed to tell him."
American players retreated to their locker room and talked of a need to regroup.
"This group will never be together again," was how defender Jay DeMerit remembered the discussion. "`We just said if we're going to go down, we go down swinging."
Bob Bradley made two lineup changes at halftime, inserting Benny Feilhaber and Edu for Torres and forward Robbie Findley, who received his second yellow card of the tournament for a hand ball in the 40th and will be suspended for the Algeria game. Dempsey pushed up from midfield to forward.
Donovan started the comeback in the 48th minute when he ran onto a Steve Cherundolo pass from midfield and got by Bostjan Cesar, a defender who fell down and then unsuccessfully chased after him. Donovan originally planned to cross, but came down the endline and shot from the 6-yard box, putting the ball over goalkeeper Samir Handanovic and into the roof of the net.
It was the third World Cup goal for Donovan, his first since 2002, and his record 43rd for the national team.
"I decided to take a touch and aim high -- and aim at his head," Donovan said. "And I don't think he wanted to get hit from there."
Michael Bradley tied the score in the 82nd, when Jozy Altidore's header off Donovan's free kick fell in the middle of the penalty area. Running at full speed, Bradley caught up to it about 8 yards from goal and with his right foot tapped it over Handanovic's head.
"That's Mikey. He was pretty energetic at halftime," Howard said. "He wanted the talk ... to stop and to put our money where our mouths are. He did a good job of being an example of that."
Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek talked about his team losing its concentration in the second half and how the Americans benefited from it. "We were ahead of the United States, but we didn't overcome this pressure," he said.
It was almost the first come-from-behind win for the Americans in World Cup play. The United States is 6-16-5 in the World Cup, never falling behind in its victories. That would have changed, if not for what the U.S. believes was a phantom foul.
"I haven't seen the replay, but I've had 43 text messages from people who did, and they didn't see a foul, either," U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said.
During the last week, U.S. players said this wasn't so much a "must-win game" as a "can't-lose" match.
That changes against Algeria.
"Now we have to win," Donovan said. "Period. End of story."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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