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USA England: Draw Puts US in Good Position to Advance

June 14, 2010

Tim Howard was an animal between the posts.

Obviously a win against England would have been nice, but a draw is a fine result and a result is exactly what the US needed out of their first game in the World Cup.  It also puts them in a good spot to advance to the next round.

Having drawn with their toughest opponent they can now look forward to Algeria and Slovenia with confidence in their chances. 

Tim Howard was obviously the man of the match on Saturday, and were it not for his brilliant goalkeeping the game would have gotten out of hand quickly.

He showed great toughness in finishing the game after getting spiked by one of England’s attackers.  He is obviously the class of the group, and one of the best keepers in the whole tournament.

Steve Cherundolo may have been the unsung hero of the match for the US.  He always seemed to find himself in the right spot to stop the attack.  The name sticks in your head because it is unique, but he is rarely talked about when it comes to the big names in US soccer.

Clint Dempsey was the benefactor of the much discussed misplay by England’s goalie.  He had a decent match, but maybe the best lesson he learned is that good things happen when you put the ball on goal.

I get so sick of hearing people say, “If he had just gotten in front of the ball that wouldn’t have been a goal, and…”  It doesn’t matter IF something else had happened because it didn’t. 

That is the nature of sports.

You get bad bounces, nasty hops, and tough breaks.  But, for every one of those there is a lucky bounce, a beneficial call, and a beautiful play. 

I thought that both Robbie Findley and Jozy Altidore played well and came very close to some great plays.  Had they played more together, and with this team, some of those close plays may have resulted in goals.

I would have liked to have seen Edson Buddle come in a little bit earlier in the match to give him more time to find his game and make something happen.  He didn’t really get much of a chance.

There is a reason I waited until now to mention Landon Donovan, and that is because he didn’t have a game worth mentioning.  He has been the supposed leader of this team for some time now, but has not shown up on the world stage when it matters most.

He has shown in the past that he is capable of creating, and making things happen, but for whatever reason, he doesn’t do much of value when the World Cup rolls around.  This was his chance to show the world that he is an elite player, and he did little to show that on Saturday.

The defense as a group was sketchy, and was very fortunate to have the wall that is Tim Howard behind them.  Oguchi Onyewu played well at times, but lagged at others.  It was apparent that his injury held him back at times. 

One of the toughest things about returning from an injury is having confidence in the injured area that you can use it to its full potential.  That confidence only comes with time, and he simply has not had enough time to build that confidence up.

This match could have easily gone to the extreme on either side, but in general the team kept their heads and recovered after going down early.  The mental toughness that was displayed after the early goal may be the best sign for this team.

It is unfortunate that Slovenia was able to pull out the win in their first, game, but the US is still well positioned to advance. 

Everyone expects England to win their last two matches and advance, and the odds are on the side of the Americans to do the same.  The danger that lurks for both teams is to overlook the lesser opponents in the group and only come away with a draw, or heaven forbid a loss.

Stranger things have happened in sports, and a careless team can easily get tossed to the side if they aren’t careful.  You need only look at the 2006 World Cup and the world powers that did not advance to the second round.

It is a shame that we have to wait almost a week in between games, but at least there are some other entertaining matches ahead.  I am by no means a soccer nut, but I am enjoying the increased coverage and the opportunity to enjoy more of the beautiful game.

The outlook is good for the US after the draw on Saturday, and I look forward to enjoying two more great matches on their way to the next round.

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