At World Cup, Team USA-England game hinges on goalkeepers Tim Howard, Robert Green

The United States and England battled to a 1-1 tie in the World Cup opener for both teams.
By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 13, 2010

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- There was nothing intimidating about the ball Clint Dempsey struck 40 minutes into the United States' World Cup opener.

With the United States trailing, 1-0, after surrendering a goal to England's superior constellation of soccer stars after four minutes of play, Dempsey saw an opening and fired at the mouth of England's goal.

Stopping the ball should have been child's play, given its trajectory -- as true as a well-hurled bowling ball heading for the 10-pin -- and its plodding creep along the pitch.

Goalkeeper Robert Green crouched to receive it with both gloved hands.

But he muffed it instead, toppling awkwardly as the ball caromed off his mitts and dribbled past for one of the least impressive and most inexplicable goals in World Cup history.

That was the extent of the Americans' offense in their 2010 World Cup opener Saturday at Royal Bafokeng Stadium. But it was enough for the United States to muster a 1-1 draw against the most daunting team in Group C and position itself well to advance out of the 32-team tournament's first round.

Soccer is a team game, but often the outcome falls on the shoulders of one player.

The goalkeeper.

Saturday was one of those nights. And even though the United States and England each earned one point by virtue of the draw, one goalkeeper (Green) walked off a goat; the other, America's Tim Howard, strode off the hero.

Green, 30, didn't dodge culpability but immediately held up his right mitt, as if to say, "My bad," to his raging coach, Fabio Capello, and disbelieving teammates.

"I take responsibility," he told reporters afterward. "It was my mistake. I've made mistakes in my career. I'm strong enough to bounce back."

It's far from clear Capello will give him the chance, sidestepping a question about whether he planned to bench the keeper for England's next match, Friday against Algeria.

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