It's a sports adage that goes back decades.
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
Clint Dempsey's 25-yard strike in the 40th minute slipped past England goalie Robert Green and helped the U.S. manage a 1-1 draw against the favored England squad tonight in Rustenburg, South Africa. It was a shot that any world-class goalkeeper would save time after time, but it eluded the West Ham stopper tonight and it gifted the Americans a well-deserved point in their opening match.
The equalizer came after England midfielder Steven Gerrard netted the opening goal just four minute in. Gerrard streaked toward goal -- losing his defender, Ricardo Clark, in the process -- and placed a nifty shot to the left of goalie Tim Howard for a 1-0 lead. It was just the start the Americans didn't want.
But, the Rebels settled against their Redcoat opponents and actually played on par with them throughout the first half. Although Ricardo Clark's mistake (to be fair, it was more of a nice run by the Liverpool skipper than a slip-up by the American) led to England's first goal, he made up for in the 35th minute with a pair of back-to-back defensive plays that may have saved a goal.
In the second half, both teams traded opportunities and American coach Bob Bradley proved late that he wasn't just playing for the draw. He kept his starting XI out there until the 77th minute, when Edson Buddle replaced Robbie Findley, who played well despite being the most controversial roster selection on the team.
If Bradley wanted to play defense for the last 15 minutes, he would've inserted Maurice Edu into the midfield and kept Jozy Altidore alone up front, but he decided to go with the striker that delivered two goals in the Americans' final tune-up match, instead. In the 86th minute, he had a chance to bolster the D again, but subbed in right winger Stuart Holden -- pushing Dempsey up top for the final minutes. Again, plenty of defensive options were on the bench, but Bradley showed he wanted three points, rather than one.
Speaking of defense, it'll be interesting what England does with Green from here on out. No question, he'll be roasted on the back pages -- and front pages -- tomorrow in his homeland. Will Fabio Capello insert veteran David James against Algeria June 18? Likely.
U.S. keeper Tim Howard -- on the other hand -- was stellar between the pipes, though it looked like he wouldn't last the full 90 minutes after a collision with Emile Heskey in the first half. The trainers came out, but Howard stayed on and the Americans were lucky he did. Howard made countless big saves in the second half to keep the game level.
Bradley's lineup proved effective against the Three Lions in the opening game. Oguchi Onyewu, having not played a full 90 minutes since autumn, had an excellent game in the back. Findley had his moments and several nice touches in the first half, though he still proved that he's not a natural finisher at the international level. Clark slipped up early, but showed enough mettle the rest of the game to warrant another start -- though it's still a mystery how Edu fell off the radar after solid play in the pre-World Cup friendlies.
The U.S. takes on Slovenia next Friday at 10 a.m. They'll get a chance to watch both of their next two opponents tomorrow as Slovenia-Algeria square off Sunday at 7:30 a.m. EST.
Altidore - Findley
Dempsey - Clark - Bradley - Donovan
Bocanegra - Onyewu - DeMerit - Cherundolo
Rooney - Heskey
Milner - Lampard - Gerrard - Lennon
A. Cole - Terry - King - Johnson
ENG - Wright-Phillips for Milner (30)
ENG - Carragher for King (45)
US - Buddle for Findley (77)
ENG - Crouch for Heskey (79)
US - Holden for Altidore (86)