Call It Luck?
United States soccer team fights England to a draw, but not without some good fortune
The United States is gearing up for its next World Cup soccer game Friday against Slovenia. In its first match against a powerful England squad, Team USA showed its skills and earned a 1-1 tie. But not without a big piece of luck.
The record will show it was a tie, but it was hardly that. Many U.S. players and fans treated the tie as a win. That is because few soccer experts gave the underdog Yanks (a nickname for the U.S. team) a chance against the Three Lions (a nickname for the English team).
At first, it looked like the experts might be right. England's Steven Gerrard put his team ahead just four minutes into the game. He got past U.S. midfielder Ricardo Clark and flicked the ball past goalie Tim Howard to score. The goal boosted England's confidence and left the Americans looking shaky.
Still, U.S. defenders Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo, and Carlos Bocanegra refused to give up. They shut out England's star scorer Wayne Rooney. He never got a clear shot at the goal. This gritty, skillful performance kept the team in the game. And then. . .the lucky break.
U.S. forward Clint Dempsey spun and kicked a left-footed shot 25 feet from England's goal. The slow two-hopper looked easy to defend. But English goalie Robert Green misplayed the ball. It glanced off his gloves and rolled slowly into the goal as he crawled to try to stop it.
This U.S. goal robbed the English of their confidence. And it gave the Americans new life.
"I think a lot of us came off the field satisfied with this result," said U.S. star Landon Donovan. "but maybe a little disappointed that we didn't get more out of the game."
U.S. Star Still Healthy
The Americans were not just lucky in getting Dempsey's goal. They are also lucky about Howard, their star goalie. In the first half, Howard got kicked in the ribs while trying to charge a ball. He managed to play through that painful injury. Time and again, his saves preserved the 1-1 tie.
For several days, it was not clear if Howard would be able to play against Slovenia this Friday. Americans breathed a sign of relief when doctors cleared him for the game. The Slovenians are not expected to be as tough as England. However, upsets are part of the World Cup. Already the strong Greek team was shocked by South Korea, 2-0. Also, favored Cameroon was upset by Japan, 1-0.
And American players can't forget what happened four years ago. They were booted out of the tournament after the first round, with a 0-2-1 record. The United States now needs a win and probably a tie in games against Slovenia Friday and against Algeria on June 23 to advance to the second round.
But then the competition gets even tougher. The Americans might face Argentina, Brazil, or Spain. Many soccer fans say those teams are strong enough to reach this year's final game on July 11. On the other hand, so is England. And the United States showed that it can keep up with the Three Lions.
"We're a resilient side, you know," says Howard. "We're a tough side, and on our day we can put a good performance in."
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