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World Cup: USA 1-1 draw with England important, not impressive

The fact that the USA held England to a 1-1 draw in the World Cup Saturday was an accomplishment. But the result raised more questions about England than it answered about the USA.

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Yet at other moments, the game was far too pedestrian. Forget England goalkeeper Green’s blunder to gift the USA its crucial goal. More insidious, but perhaps equally as worrying, was England’s repeated inability to force USA’s Tim Howard into a difficult save. In the most crucial moments, England invariably shot directly at him.

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When Emile Heskey was alone in front of goal, his shot was impossible for Howard not to save.

Another time, England forward Wayne Rooney helplessly watched a cross sail over his head when there was not an American defender in the same ZIP code.

These are hardly schoolboy soccer mistakes. “Nil-nil” might be a taunt of the American soccerphobe, but it is also instructive: scoring in soccer is hard.

Yet neither are these mistakes that Spain or Brazil would make with such regularity.

They allowed America to emerge with its growing reputation intact, and perhaps enhanced. And not unjustly. Viewers needed a GPS system just to locate Rooney during the first half in part because the USA defense marginalized him.

Moreover, this was no miracle draw. The US, while clearly overmatched on the teamsheet, was rarely overmatched on the field.

No, it was more a matter of England not being the foe many had expected them to be.

This doesn’t mean they are impostors. For World Cup champions, the tournament is often a crescendo, and England has the means to right itself.

But it means that a 1-1 draw against England is not necessarily a pass to the second round. Even well off its top form, England is probably still better than the USA’s other Group C rivals, Slovenia and Algeria.

Then again, the USA will need to do better than draw against Slovenia (Friday) and Algeria (June 23) to advance.

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