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Stop acting like the U.S. won or deserved a point

Since the United States tied England 1-1 last Saturday, every sportswriter that doesn’t put an extra U in “These colors don’t run!” has been hooting and hollering about the significance of picking up a point. And while there is no disputing the importance of grabbing that point off the group favorites, there are plenty of issues for the U.S. going forward, not the least of which is that they played down to England’s level on a day when England played very poorly.


Aside from Steven Gerrard, not a single English player had a strong match. Some of the credit for this goes to Bob Bradley and the U.S. team, but most of the credit has to go to England’s squad. Unless Landon Donovan was messing with Frank Lampard’s contact lenses, the play of the Americans had little to do with England’s atrocious passing. Can anybody name a player who had a standout game aside from the outside backs and Tim Howard? Is this really a reason to gush?

The United States was gifted a point by a single moment of stupidity from Robert Green. They were offered another opportunity thanks to an injury to Ledley King that forced Jamie Carragher to match up against the faster and stronger Jozy Altidore. So… well done? You almost scored after beating a fourth choice center back? That matchup lasted an entire half and how many times did the Americans take advantage of it?

Scouser tickle defense ineffective! Abort!

And there is more. While many lament the Altidore miss, few mentions have been made of Emile Heskey’s poor finishing on the other end. Lest we forget, the giant striker was in on goal alone and shot directly at Tim Howard. Howard deserves all the kudos he gets, but when a goalie catches a shot on a breakaway, shame on the striker.

The United States pulled a point out of a goalie’s hat on a day when England lost two substitutions to injury. Bradley and Clark tracked England’s all-world center midfielders for most of the game – but that’s a backhanded compliment considering Steven Gerrard waltzed through the American pair to score the opener. And now the heart and soul of the U.S. team, Howard, will be playing through pain for the remainder of the cup.

Gooch is the yellow bar on the far right

Looking at the match tactically, it’s clear that both teams built their lineups to minimize the strengths of the opposition, rather than to maximize their own gifts. Fabio Capello thought Donovan would be a point of attack so he deployed Milner (coming off an injury) to contain the diminutive American. He also counted on Heskey to beat Onyewu in the air, never considering that Gooch’s lack of positioning would leave gaping holes in the U.S. defense that a faster player could exploit. Do not imagine for a moment that Slovenia won’t see the same things the analysts over at Zonal Marking highlighted only hours after the match. Bob Bradley used his best offensive weapons, Dempsey and Donovan, almost as decoys. Both players pulled into the middle to support Clark and Bradley and suck in England’s dangerous outside backs. It was a very astute plan, especially if you’re playing for a tie.

Slovenia defeated Russia, Poland and Slovaka in qualifying, and they beat Algeria on Saturday without giving up a weak early goal. It’s quite ironic that so many fans and pundits are calling the England tie a win when all it does is prove that at the World Cup a less talented team can easily take points off of the favored squad.

Earning a point against the favorites in the group is exciting, but let us all take a lesson from Mike’s article on Italy. The World Cup is not a place to puff out your chest or settle old scores. The goal of the first game is not to lose, as evidenced from the many conservative performances seen thus far. The U.S. achieved this goal because of a fluke, not because of any sort of sustained pressure or positive play. But as Argentina showed on Thursday, the second game is a must-win.

The PSP team moments before kickoff

In the World Cup, there is a small reward for the team that only does well in a rivalry game, and a big reward for consistency. While the Americans have shown the ability to elevate their defensive game to match strong offenses like England, producing any kind of consistent attack is something they have yet to show.

So remember: We all felt a level of pride last Saturday, but real pride is winning games when it counts. And it counts in the knockout round. Many Americans who don’t follow soccer whine about ties and claim that every game should end with a winner. That’s exactly what happens in the Round of 16, and a win there is something to be truly proud about.

Images via Zonal Marking and SI.com


  1. Ed Farnsworth says:

    What a killjoy you are, what with your un-American use of logic, sense and reason. Somebody just thought their way off of my Christmas card list.

  2. Jeremy L. says:

    You make some good points, Mr. Cann, but I disagree when people say that we only got our tie because of Poor Rob Green. Certainly, that is how it happened functionally, but even if he’d made the save, I feel confident that we would have found a way to score, because the balance of play leading to the goal had us in the ascendancy. Scoring changed the game, for both teams, tactically and emotionally. Just because the goal itself was a bit lucky means little. The tie was well-deserved. Could we have won? Yes. Could they have? Yes. But neither did–that’s why it’s a tie. The fact that both teams could have done better is somewhat immaterial. What was important was ensuring that England didn’t get three points, which we did. I’d say, with Slovenia’s win over Algeria, we’re in about the same position heading into tomorrow. Ensure Slovenia do not win, and we’re looking pretty good to advance (though beating them would be the best course of action). And dammit, I’ll act like England sucks all day every day if I feel like it.

  3. First off all there really is too much being made of Rob Green giving up that goal. Technically he did everything he should have to stop that ball-got behind it, had is back knee down, thumbs out and palms facing the ball. Every element we teach at the NSCAA Goalkeeping Academies. That ball had series spin as it was heading toward green, and if you go back and look at the video, just before it hits his hands it hits the ground and changes direction. I have seen Gold Glove Infielders in Major League Baseball, make thousands of routine ground balls, but sometimes those balls take a bad hope right before it gets to the glove. Granted, the U.S. Goal was not a thing of beauty, but sometimes you have to take shots on goal because you never know when you are going to get a chance like dempsey said. So did the U.S. Deserve the point and tie, Absolutely. Keep in mind late in the second half, Green to make a big save on Altidore after Altidore worked his was way deep into the opposing 1/3 for what would have been the go ahead and probablly game winning goal. So please, don’t take anything away from the U.S. because of Greens mishap.

  4. I hate you, Adam. Just so you know. In case there was any doubt.

    Also, I hate the fact that if the U.S. somehow lose to Slovenia, they’re likely out of the World Cup, just like that.

  5. I will absolutely take something away from the U.S. because of Green’s mishap. It’s a big ball, not a baseball. He doesn’t have to catch it, he just has to push it left, right or forward. Imagine if baseball players only had to stop the ball from going behind them…

    I would argue that one of the things we should teach in goalkeeping camp is reading the spin, but then again I like not letting in goals.

    Green did make a great save on Altidore. It was also a save he should have made because I am guessing he was taught to cover his near post in goalkeeping camp. Altidore should have been taught to shoot far post.

    And just to clear up any confusion, I hope the U.S. beats Slovenia too. I just think they need to be a lot better because it’s time to get past the round of 16. Dominating CONCACAF is so 2006.

    • wow you have no clue about playing goalkeeper, you can’t read spin on a ball, that’s like predicting which direction a football will bounce. Also if you wanted todays robbery of the U.S. Teams 3-2 comback vs Slovenia, you will see that the Slovenian Keeper had the near post covered pretty well on Landon Donovans goal, but Donovan still scored. Altidore could not shoot far post in this instance because there was also an English Defender marking him tightly on his right side. FYI, you never teach a keeper to push the ball forward, it is always to the left or right. My Initial thought when I answered your string was that yes, as a U.S. fan you should take solice from that tie, despite Greens Mishap, because Dempsey still had the presense of mind to take the shot on net. He was actually taking the advice of U.S.Teammate (goalie) Marcus Hahnemann who plays his club ball with Englands Wolverhampton Wanderers and had the chance to play with a particular model of that ball before the world cup and told all the U.S. Strikers to shoot when they can becasue this balls unpredictablity.

  6. The real question is if the Italians hate watching the U.S. play as much as we hate watching them?
    Do they Mike?

  7. Did you ever think that the reason nobody stood out in that game is because the players matched up well against each other? Nice effort trying to make a point but honestly it sounds very un-American of you I was very disappointed in the entire article. Get behind your team or shut up and stop hating.

  8. Adam Cann says:

    “It was a very astute plan, especially if you’re playing for a tie.” – I believe this speaks to your point about the matchups?

    And I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said that dissent is the greatest form of patriotism, although I’m sure shutting up and blindly falling in line was a close second.

  9. It’s not un-American. It’s soccer commentary. The worst part is that, watching the Slovenia game (it’s now halftime), Adam is being proved right on everything he said.

    Now let’s hope for an epic comeback.

  10. Now that’s a game after which we can all agree the US should be walking away with more points than they got. What the heck was the call on that Edu goal??

    First half: Slovenia took advantage of Onyewu’s positioning.

    Second half: Wide players pushed wide, attacked down the flanks.

    I feel vindicated personally, but as a USA fan I feel like we deserve all three from that game. What a comeback.

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