United States 1, England 1

England’s players couldn’t get off the field fast enough. The

Americans lingered to savor the night.

They walked to the end of Royal Bafokeng Stadium where thousands

of red, white and blue-clad fans were waving the Stars and Stripes

and cheering their heads off.

Try convincing the U.S. team and its fans there wasn’t a winner

in the 1-1 draw with mighty England.

“We’ll take more out of a draw than they will,” said U.S.

goalkeeper Tim Howard, the man of the match. “They’re going to

feel like they should have won the game.”

Facing the Three Lions in the World Cup for the first time in 60

years, the United States rallied and then hung on for an instant

boost in confidence that they could advance to the second

round.

Clint Dempsey became only the second American to score in two

World Cups, getting the tying goal in the 40th minute on a blunder

by goalkeeper Robert Green. Howard made six saves in his World Cup

debut, withstanding a second-half barrage by Wayne Rooney and his

celebrated teammates.

“I think a lot of us came off the field satisfied with this

result, but maybe a little disappointed we didn’t get more out of

the game,” U.S. star Landon Donovan said.

Steven Gerrard put England ahead in the fourth minute, blowing

past Ricardo Clark to beat Howard from short range. Dempsey tied it

when Green fumbled his 25-yard shot that skipped off the ground

twice, yet another mistake in a long line by English

goalkeepers.

“Mentally we’re strong enough to get over it, and as a

goalkeeper these things happen,” Green told Sky TV. “You prepare

yourself for not letting it affect you.”

Anticipation had built for six months for the much-hyped game,

the first competitive meeting between the nations since the famous

1-0 U.S. upset at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. There were viewing

parties across America, and several Major League Soccer teams

opened their stadiums to show the match from across the world on

large video boards.

“I’m sure they were excited in bars back home. I can only

imagine it was pretty intense,” Howard said. “We’re a resilient

side, you know. We’re a tough side and on our day we can put a good

performance in.”

Howard bruised his ribs when Emile Heskey’s foot slid into him

in the 29th minute. He was down for a while, grimaced several times

when play resumed and had a painkiller injection at halftime.

Then he saved the Americans time and again in the second half,

frustrating the very high-priced stars he faces each week when he

plays for Everton.

Howard said the hit “felt like agony.” After the match, he

felt sore and said he might need an MRI to make sure there isn’t

any damage.

“Obviously the adrenaline is pumping,” he said. “In a couple

hours I’ll be struggling.”

Big defender Oguchi Onyewu played his first 90-minute game since

rupturing a knee tendon in the last World Cup qualifier on Oct. 14.

Forward Jozy Altidore, back from a sprained ankle, nearly put the

U.S. ahead in the 65th minute, but Green got a hand on his angled

shot and it deflected off the corner of the goal.

“A little unlucky,” the 20-year-old Altidore said after his

World Cup debut.

With each save late in the game, louder chants of “U-S-A!”

erupted from Sam’s Army and American Outlaws, groups who made the

long and expensive trip from home to sit among the vuvuzela-blowing

fans on a cool night in the Southern Hemisphere. The crowd of

38,646 included Vice President Joe Biden, who visited the U.S.

locker room before kickoff. Some players skipped his greetings.

“I was getting taped,” captain Carlos Bocanegra said.

England must try to regroup as it seeks its first major title

since winning the World Cup at home in 1966. The U.S., trying to

rebound from first-round elimination four years ago, got a boost as

it heads into first-round games against Slovenia on Friday and

Algeria on June 23.

While not a shocking win to match 1950, the U.S. earned a huge

single point in its quest to reach the second round for the first

time since 2002.

Both sides started out tentative and nervous. England broke on

top when Heskey took Glen Johnson’s throw-in and sent a through

ball to Gerrard broke in as Clark couldn’t catch him and flicked it

past Howard for his 17th goal in 82 appearances.

It continued a troublesome pattern for the Americans, who fell

behind in three of their last four qualifiers before coming back

for a draw or win.

“The funny thing is, we talk about, you know, don’t concede

early,” Bocanegra said. “And man, it’s been our trademark lately,

conceding early.”

Dempsey, whose become a key player for Fulham in England, scored

on a play very similar to the goal by Croatia’s Niko Kranjcar that

went in off Scott Carson’s arm and helped eliminate England from

qualifying from the 2008 European Championship.

Dempsey took several touches, spun around Gerrard and hit a

dipping left-footed shot. The ball hit the field twice, glanced off

Green’s right hand and went into the net for Dempsey’s 19th goal in

63 national team games. Dempsey, who also scored against Ghana as

the U.S. was eliminated in 2006, matched Brian McBride in 1998 and

2002 as the only American to score in World Cups.

“At the last second, it moved a little bit,” Dempsey said.

“These balls move so much, you just hit them on goal, you have a

chance. It’s one of those goals you always say, `Why can’t I get

one like that?”’

David Seaman and David “Calamity” James are among the other

English keepers to make gaffes, one of the reasons Howard is among

three American starters in the 20-team Premier League.

Howard made a point-blank stop on Heskey’s 18-yard right-footed

shot in the 52nd minute and parried Lampard’s 20-foot left-footed

shot over the crossbar in the 63rd. Rooney had a quiet night,

failing to make good contact with a Gerrard cross while open on the

side of the goal in the 76th minute. The ball glanced off his head

and went harmlessly wide.

“It was a difficult game,” Gerrard said. “I think the

important thing in the first game is not to lose. Unfortunately,

we’ve let a poor goal in and we couldn’t go on and get the

winner.”