Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pump up the volume

Crowd turns out for USA versus England

Express Staff Writer

On the most beautiful sunny Saturday to date this dreary spring, hundreds of soccer fans crammed into a dark bar in Ketchum to watch the premiere pool play matchup in the 2010 FIFA World Cup: United States versus England.

The energy from the South Africa's Royal Bafokeng Stadium was palpable in the room. Every touch, pass and shot on goal rippled from the big screen to the pro-USA crowd. Audible gasps of despair were emitted and heads went down when England's Steven Gerrard scored four minutes into the match. But the crowd was equally triumphant when Clint Dempsey's shot rolled through English keeper Robert Green's hands to tie the score 1-1 in the 40th minute of the opening half. Arms outstretched and fists pumping, the throng rose to its feet in unison with unbridled glee. With the goal, Dempsey became only the second American to score in two World Cups.

"England would be the more disappointed side to be tied at halftime, especially allowing such a soft goal," Community School soccer coach Richard Whitelaw remarked. "The USA is still in it."

English-born Callum Heap, sporting a Wayne Rooney jersey and a tousled mini-Mohawk, concurred.

"A tie is not too bad, but that soft goal is what really bugs me. We have three goalkeepers and they are pretty much even. Obviously we picked the wrong one," he said, launching into England's long history of lamentable goalkeeping gaffes.

The one keeper who stood tall after the game, was American Tim Howard who staved off 18 shots, making six quality saves. In comparison, Team USA launched 12 shots with four saves by Green. England held an 8-4 advantage on corner kicks and possessed the ball for 57 percent of the match, according to ESPN.

Still, most people felt it was a moral victory for the United States and the crowd departed, depleted yet happy.

"I'm sure they were excited in bars back home. I can only imagine it was pretty intense," Howard told ESPN.

If only he knew.

"Beer and soccer. It's been a great time," said Tim Graves of Hailey.

The United States returns to the pitch against Slovenia on Friday, June 18 at 8 a.m. Mountain Standard Time. England meets Algeria at 12:30 p.m. Slovenia beat Algeria 1-0 Sunday to earn three points and currently sits atop the Group C standings, followed by USA and England with one point apiece. The top two teams from each of the eight pools advance to the single-elimination round of 16. The best finish for a U.S. side was third place in 1930, the World Cup's inaugural year. The team is coming off a disappointing appearance in 2006 when they failed to win a single match.

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