England keeper's blunder allows U.S. to pick up valuable Group C point.
By Robert Wagman
(Saturday, June 12, 2010) - The United States men picked up a fortunate point, starting Group C of the World Cup with a 1-1 draw against England at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa.
The American equalizer came when Clint Dempsey's easy shot was botched by England goalkeeper Robert Green who, while kneeling, had the ball bounce off his hands into the net in the 40th minute for a 1-1 tie.
The match was a 90-minute struggle for both sides with neither team playing all that well.
England was especially hurt by the lackluster play of some of its key players, such as striker Wayne Rooney. But England did enough to keep the Americans back on its heels for long stretches, although the Americans were able to push forward and cause England some problems.
Maybe it was nerves, but in the early-going the U.S. backline was somewhat disorganized. The confusion resulted in England taking a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute when the American center backs were pulled wide and England midfielder Steven Gerrard began a run. U.S. midfielder Ricardo Clark was caught ball watching, letting Gerrard go to take a quick pass and unmarked, shot past Tim Howard into the net. goal.
To its credit, the U.S. defense tightened up and over the next 40 minutes did not give up many quality chances to England.
In the meantime, the U.S. attack worked hard, but was not able to create much either. Then came Clint Dempsey fine double-turn to get off what amounted to a soft shot which Green bungled, an error that will haunt Green forever.
In the second half, England came out with more purpose, but the U.S. remained organized on defense and got fine individual efforts from all four of its back-liners. It gave up several chances, but in each case, Howard was up to the task. At the same time, the Americans tried to counter-attack, but with only limited effectiveness. In the 65th minute, U.S. striker Jozy Altidore finally blew by his defender and got a hard angled shot on goal that Green managed to push against the goal post and away.
U.S. coach Bob Bradley chose to try to find a balance between offense and defense with both his formation and his choice of starters. He went with a defensive 4-4-2 formation using a pair of holding midfielders in Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark. At the same time, he paired his two fastest forwards, Jozy Altidore and Robbie Findley, hoping to be able to attack the somewhat makeshift English back-line with pace.
Bradley's plan had limited success, mainly because of the sub-standard play of Findley and, to a lesser extent, Clark. Findley was never a threat on the offensive end and was not able to use his speed to any advantage. Clark, at times, did not pair well with the defenders behind him and he sometimes was slow to cover for outside defenders pushing forward.
In the end, the point for the draw is potentially very valuable, even if it was gained in part by luck and, at times, as a result of some inelegant play. Now the U.S. can move on to matches against what should be the lesser opponents in Group C -- Algeria and Slovenia.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 6.5: Did just about everything one could ask from a goalkeeper. Came up big on several occasions, but his biggest contribution was organizing his defense after its disjoined start.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 7: Was seemingly everywhere, making stop and stop, and saving a goal in the 20th minute by clearing a ball that was destined for the corner of the net.
Defender Jay DeMerit - 6: Played a strong physical game and was mainly responsible for limiting Rooney's effectiveness in the penalty area.
Defender Oguchi Onyewu - 6: He was a bit shaky at the start but, as the match progressed, he settled in and over the final 20 minutes plus seemed like the Gooch of old. He completely negated towering reserve striker Peter Crouch over the final quarter hour.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 6: Had some problems with pace late, but otherwise played a solid 90 minutes. Was often able to push forward and get into the offense while not being susceptible to the counter.
Midfielder Ricardo Clark - 4.5: Was caught ball watching on the early England goal, but then did come on strong defensively for the rest of the first half. Was less effective in the second half and seemed to fade near the end.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6: Defensively, as effective as any national-team match he has played. Ranged to both sides, and up and down to cut off passes and limit the cohesion of the England play down the middle.
Midfielder Landon Donovan - 6: He worked very hard and at times caused problems for England. But he again lacked consistency and never was able to come up with that breakthrough moment of which he is capable.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 6.5: The kind of blue-collar game which is expected from him over 90 minutes. Was dogged on defense and made several contributions on the attack, including control of the ball that allowed him to get off the shot that turned into the U.S. goal.
Forward Robbie Findley - 4.5: At times, did show good pace, but to very little effect. Did not work well with Altidore and was not at all effective.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 5.5: For the most part, he was well handled by the England defense, but he kept plugging and caused problems in the second half.
Forward Edson Buddle (77th minute for Findley) - 5: He had no impact on the match from an offensive viewpoint, but did drop back and contribute defensively in the late going.
Midfielder Stuart Holden (86th minute for Altodore) - NR: Did work hard to help kill off the match.
SoccerTimes Player of the Match: Steve Cherundolo.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
Do you have a comment on this story or something to say about soccer in general? Send us a letter.