At World Cup, Team USA and England battle to tie
Sunday, June 13, 2010
RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- The scoreboards at either end of Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Saturday night were not working, so for Vice President Biden and the 38,646 in attendance, there was no official record of what had unfolded in the United States' World Cup opener against England.
Judging by the reactions afterward, one might conclude that the Americans had won the Group C match. While the favored English trudged to the locker room, the U.S. players lingered on the field and saluted their supporters, estimated at more than 8,000 on a starry night in this remote outpost in northern South Africa, before departing with a bounce in their step.
Though the result was a 1-1 tie, "we'll take more out of it than they will," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "They are going to feel like they probably should have won the game."
If not for English goalkeeper Robert Green's blunder on Clint Dempsey's distant shot late in the first half -- one of the worst gaffes in World Cup play in recent memory -- England, on the strength of Steven Gerrard's early strike, might very well have cast aside the United States.
But the Americans felt better about the outcome because, as they had done so many times during the qualifying stages, they had come from behind to earn a point. They felt better about it because they were the clear underdog, a team that had washed out of the 2006 tournament without a victory and, on paper, were overmatched by England's collection of marquee players.
U.S. defenders Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit exhibited courage and fortitude in the second half against Wayne Rooney, one of the sport's most dangerous strikers, and Howard overcame a first-half rib injury to make several classy saves.
With the tie, the Americans find themselves in good standing to reach the round of 16, needing a victory against either Slovenia on Friday in Johannesburg or Algeria five days later in Pretoria.
"A big game, a big night," U.S. Coach Bob Bradley said.
The match couldn't have started any worse for the Americans, who drifted into a slumber in the fourth minute on an innocuous throw-in by Glen Johnson. Frank Lampard touched the ball toward Rooney, who pushed it along to Emile Heskey.
"Next thing you know, there is a big hole in our backline," Bradley said. "England made us pay."
Before DeMerit could close him down, Heskey one-timed the ball into space for the hard-charging Gerrard, who had slipped behind Ricardo Clark.
Howard came off his line but to no avail. Gerrard, the Liverpool standout, coolly used his inside foot to direct a 14-yard shot into the lower right corner.