RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- We've all seen this movie before, a sluggish start from the United States. Six times in final-round qualifying the United States conceded the first goal.
So it shouldn't have been an enormous surprise when
Less predictable was the collective quick turn toward improvement. So much of that was down to two men who know about holding their nerve in big moments, Man of the Match
"We weren't particularly sharp early on, as you saw, a bunch of giveaways," said Howard, who has stood the test on big matches in England, but who was making his World Cup debut. "We weren't tight enough, particularly on Gerrard for the goal, on (
Howard's body of work was clear to all. He parried, pushed away or caught everything England had. Most of England's best efforts came from beyond the 18, but even those must be dealt with properly, as we saw from
Howard even impressed England No. 2 goalkeeper
Howard nearly wasn't around to make those saves, emerging with bruised ribs from a 29th minute collision with Heskey. Howard said afterward that Heskey "had every right to go for that ball, same as I did."
Still, Howard's sporting attitude won't make his ribs feel any better. Things looked dicey as Howard remained on the ground for about three minutes. On the U.S. bench, near where
"Timmy, as always, never wants to come off, and now we'll assess over next few days how he's feeling," Bradley said.
Perhaps not as glaringly obvious was Cherundolo's dominant two-way work, as the Hannover co-captain was nearly flawless to begin his second World Cup campaign. England's
Phillips never really got the best of Cherundolo, either.
"It was not so easy to go forward, because the U.S. was defending very well," Capello said.
In the middle,
"With Gooch, he's a real good competitor, and the longer the game went on the more comfortable he felt, and that's real important for us," Bradley said.
And what of
"Rooney is such a mobile player, the way he moves around," Bradley said. "It really takes a good level of concentration. I thought in the first half there still some times the back line was a little out of synch, but I thought that got better in the second half."