June 12, 2010
By Michael Lewis
A LITTLE LUCK, LOTS OF HEART
U.S. comes back to tie England 1-1
RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- If the world needed any more convincing the U.S. National Team was a team to be reckoned with, it got the answer Saturday.
|Clint Dempsey gave the United States the equalizer against England.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Playing one of the World Cup contenders even and taking advantage of a gift goal, the Americans walked out of Royal Bafokeng Stadium with a stunning 1-1 draw with highly favored England in the Group C confrontation before 38,646 enthusiastic fans.
While the game will not be remembered for the U.S.'s earth-shattering and historic 1-0 victory over England at the 1950 World Cup, the Americans certainly proved their point to earn a precious point.
Actually, the result had to feel more like a win to the U.S., who were the decided underdogs against an England team that had English Premier League players from top to bottom in the lineup.
For the English, the tie will be considered an embarrassment and a loss, which will be dissected for days by a demanding media that will vilify goalkeeper Robert Green.
Afterwards, a shirtless Donovan led the U.S. team to the American supporters section as they applauded the fans.
As it turned out, the Americans were gifted a goal in the 40th minute in what had to be one of the greatest howlers in Cup history. That's when Green, who had all of 10 international appearances entering the match, allowed Clint Dempsey's 25-yard shot through both his hands.
As it turned out, former MetroStars goalkeeper Tim Howard was named man of the match for his superb performance.
The Americans gained a lot of respect at last year's FIFA Confederations Cup, finishing a surprising second to five-time world champion Brazil. But there were still doubters as to whether they could do it at the sport's biggest stage.
They proved they could last night.
The pre-game atmosphere was pulsating as the crowd was more partisan for England, although the USA fans, many clad in red, white and blue, were loud themselves.
There was one big problem. Both of the stadium's video boards, which usually has the running clock did not work, which brought a old-time, 1950's feel to the match as fans and media alike were forced to use their watches and electronic devices to figure out the time.
Only four minutes into the match, the U.S. found themselves behind the eight ball as Steven Gerrard put one past goalkeeper Tim Howard from five yards. John Heskey managed to out-position central midfielder Jay DeMerit for the ball in the penalty area and slipped a short pass to an onrushing Gerrard, who beat Ricardo Clark, considered one of the best defensive midfielders. Needless to say, Howard was incensed the U.S. had allowed a goal so early. It appeared he was shutting "No way!" to his teammates.
Gerrard, meanwhile, celebrated with his teammates as he slid down ot his knees and raised his right hand triumphantly.
The U.S. had a few opportunities in the coming minutes.
Clint Dempsey headed a shot over the crossbar in the 11th minute and the Americans tried in vain to penetrate England's congested goalmouth on three consecutive corner kicks from the 13th to 15th minutes.
Former Red Bull striker Jozy Altidore, who started after missing several days with a mild sprained right ankle, came close in the 19th minute, when he headed Landon Donovan's right wing feed left of the net.
The Americans continued to push up for an equalizer. England's James Milner took an ill-advised yellow card for taking down right fullback Steve Cherundolo, who has average attacking skills. The foul set up a Donovan free kick that central defender Oguchi Onyewu headed wide left.
The U.S. got a major scare in the 29th minute when England striker John Heskey'd knrr rammed into Howard'd left arm while racing for the ball in the goalmouth. It appeared he struck Howard's arm. While U.S. trainer Pierre Barrieu worked on Howard, goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann warmed up on the sideline.
Donovan tried to tie it up in the 39th minute as he sent a 24-yard shot just wide left of the net and goalkeeper Robert Green.
When he got an opportunity to handle the ball in the 40th minute, Green gifted the Americans a goal in what has to be one of the biggest howlers in World Cup history.
Dempsey took a 25-yard shot with his left foot that surprised Green on the second bounce of a short hop. He got both gloved hands on the ball, but let it trickle into the left side of the net. Green put his head to the ground in embarrassment and amazement as Dempsey and the USA celebrated a 1-1 deadlock.
Dempsey became the second U.S. player to score in two World Cups, oining former teammate Brian McBride, who tallied in the 1998 and 2002 competition. Dempsey scored at German 2006.
If Howard had any effects from his first-half collision, he did not show it in the 52nd minute, when he denied an onrushing Heskey from 18 yards. Howard came out of his net to cut down the angle as he caught a shot unleashed by the England forward.
The Americans were given a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 60th minute after Gerrard put his cleats into Dempsey's thigh. Donovan sent a free kick from just outside the area to Carlos Bocanegra, who headed it wide left.
Frank Lampard tested Howard three minutes later as he needed two hands to knock the shot over the crossbar.
Altidore found himself with all sorts of room on the left side of the penalty area in the 65th minute as he fired a shot that Green managed to get both hands on as the ball bounded off the left post and out of harm's way,
As the game counted down, a desperate English side tried for the game-winner.
But Howard continued to stave off England as he denied Shaun-Wright Phillips and Wayne Rooney in the 76th minute.
After Robbie Findley was awarded a yellow card, U.S. coach Bob Bradley brought on Edson Buddle in the 77th minute.