United States earns 1-1 draw against England in World Cup opener

RUSTENBURG, South Africa — England's players couldn't get off the field fast enough. The Americans lingered to savor the night.

They walked to the end of Royal Bafokeng Stadium where thousands of red, white and blue-clad fans were waving flags and cheering their heads off.

Try convincing the U.S. team and its fans there wasn't a winner in the 1-1 draw Saturday with England.

"We'll take more out of a draw than they will," said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, man of the match. "They're going to feel like they should have won the game."

Facing England in the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, the United States rallied then hung on for a boost in confidence.

Clint Dempsey became only the second American to score in two World Cups, getting the tying goal in the 40th minute on a blunder by goalkeeper Robert Green. Howard made six saves, withstanding a second-half barrage by Wayne Rooney and his celebrated teammates.

"I think a lot of us came off the field satisfied with this result but maybe a little disappointed we didn't get more out of the game," U.S. star Landon Donovan said.

Steven Gerrard put England ahead in the fourth minute, blowing past Ricardo Clark to beat Howard from short range. But Dempsey tied it when Green fumbled his 25-yard shot that skipped off the ground twice.

"It's a shot you think the keeper will make a save on," Dempsey said, smiling. "But at the same time, I'll take it."

After the game, Green took full responsibility for the gaffe.

"Obviously, a horrible, terrible mistake," he said. "I have to recover from it. I'm 30 years old. You have hardships in life. And you prepare yourself mentally. And that's it. I'm strong enough to take it. And we'll be ready for the next game."

England coach Fabio Capello refused to come down hard on his goalkeeper.

"Sometimes, a forward misses a goal, and sometimes the keeper makes a mistake," Capello said. "This is football."

Several U.S. players said they felt for Green and that it took a bit of joy away from their important goal.

"You never want to see another player go through that," U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said. "Hopefully, the English papers will take it easy on him."

Anticipation had built for six months for the game, the first competitive meeting between the nations since the 1-0 U.S. upset at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil.

As expected, the United States entered as the underdog. Although the 14th-ranked Americans are only six spots behind the English in the FIFA World Cup rankings, they are perceived as an inferior team.

But the Americans displayed plenty of toughness.

"We showed we're a resilient side, that when we're on our game, we can compete against the best teams in the world," Howard said. "Our team is about hard work, running and kicking and scratching. We had our backs to the wall, and at times it wasn't pretty, but we found a way to hang in there."

Howard bruised his ribs when Emile Heskey's foot slid into him in the 29th minute. He was down for a while, grimaced several times when play resumed and had a painkiller injection at halftime.

Then he saved the Americans time and again in the second half, frustrating the stars he faces each week when he plays for Everton in the English Premier League.

Howard said the hit "felt like agony." After the match, he felt sore and said he might need an MRI exam to make sure there isn't any damage.

Defender Oguchi Onyewu played his first 90-minute game since rupturing a knee tendon in a World Cup qualifier Oct. 14. And forward Jozy Altidore, back from a sprained ankle, nearly put the Americans ahead in the 65th minute, but Green got a hand on his angled shot and it deflected off the corner of the goal.

"A little unlucky," Altidore, 20, said after his World Cup debut.

With each save late in the game, louder chants of "U-S-A!" erupted from Sam's Army and American Outlaws, groups who made the long and expensive trip from home to sit among the vuvuzela-blowing fans on a cool night. The crowd of 38,646 included Vice President Joe Biden, who visited the U.S. locker room before kickoff.

England must try to regroup as it seeks its first major title since winning the World Cup at home in 1966. The United States, trying to rebound from first-round elimination four years ago, got a boost as it heads into games against Slovenia on Friday and Algeria on June 23.

"It was great to see so many fans come this far to see us," Bocanegra said. "We wanted to fight for them. We're scrappers. That's our forte. To come away with a tie against a team like England, after falling behind so early, is a testament to that fighting spirit."

U.S. 1

England 1

United States earns 1-1 draw against England in World Cup opener 06/13/10 [Last modified: Sunday, June 13, 2010 1:25am]

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