The US Men’s National team drew with heavily-favored England, 1-1 Saturday in Rustenburg, South Africa. Each team takes a point, with the other Group C teams, Slovenia and Algeria, playing Sunday. For the US fans most would consider that this was a very positive result.
England drew blood early, as captain Steven Gerrard was able to get past a confused USMNT defense to sidefoot a shot past Tim Howard and into the net. A quality strike. The fourth minute goal brought back bad memories for US fans of too many games in which the US gave up the lead early. The team hung in, though, and had chances on a Clint Dempsey header in the 11th minute, a nice run by Robbie Findley that resulted in Jozy Altidore being slightly off on another scoring chance, and Oguchi Onyewu missing a header in the 27th minute off a kick by Landon Donovan. Another shaky moment for the USMNT defense came when England’s Aaron Lennon looked dangerous in the box at the 20th minute. But the USA got on the board when midfielder Clint Dempsey shook off his defender and took a low shot, which England goalkeeper bobbled and let through, leaving the game tied in the 40th minute. England’s James Milner was substituted at the half hour mark for Shaun Wright-Phillips, Milner having been continually beaten by USMNT right defender Steve Cherundolo. Hulking Jamie Carragher came on for a creaky Ledley King after intermission.
USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard made a great save off of Emile Heskey at the 52 minute mark. Howard, who got knocked heavily by Heskey earlier in the match, got revenge by stoning the English striker. In the 64th minute, US striker Jozy Altidore, who was having a fairly quiet game, rounded the aging Carragher with brute strength and speed and got in on Green, who parried Altidore’s shot. Wayne Rooney, who was nicely held in check most of the game, became more dangerous as the afternoon wore on but couldn’t get one into the net. Howard stopped a Wright-Phillips chance at the 76th minute mark and Heskey headed over the goal a minute later off a Gerrard cross. As the game wound down, Coach Bob Bradley’s team seemed happy to play for a tie, and Bradley brought in Edson Buddle for a tiring Findley and then midfielder Stuart Holden for Altidore later. The game ended tied at 1-1.
As I said before, many US soccer fans are happy with a point against England, and clearly Tim Howard’s superior goalkeeping was a factor in giving the chance for a result. And although Dempsey’s goal was certainly a gaffe by Green, the US played well enough to deserve a draw. I was disappointed, however, that Coach Bob Bradley did not bring substitutes in earlier than he did, and didn’t use his third substitute. The US team was looking fatigued in the last twenty minutes of the contest, and some earlier substitutions may have given us three points. I certainly would have liked to have seen Herculez Gomez and Jose “Gringo” Torres come in (Gomez was about to substituted in for Clint Dempsey when the final whistle was blown). The entrance of Buddle and Holden was a bit too late to get another score. Bradley, however, needs to be complimented on his overall coaching of the squad, which overall looked poised and certainly able to deal with the more talented English side. Midfielder Michael Bradley was a force throughout the game, and Steve Cherundolo was outstanding, particularily in the first half. Oguchi Onyewu looked fitter than one would have thought given his lack of playing time due to injury over the last six months, and Landon Donovan showed calm leadership. Clint Dempsey’s goal was a great example of the good things that can happen when attackers put the ball on goal, and Dempsey did a lot of tracking back defensively. Still, I think the three points were there for the taking, and although England had more shots than the US, their goalkeeping and defense looked less than stellar.
The USMNT takes on Slovenia next Friday at 9:00 am CDT while Fabio Capello’s England side has a date that day with Algeria at 1:30 pm CDT . Also, I was very pleased with the mention of St. Louisans Harry Keough and Frank Borghi of the 1950 US World Cup team by legendary commentator Martin Tyler. Classy.