RUSTENBURG, South Africa - Filing out of Royal Bafokeng Stadium, the English fans appeared the losers.

Distraught and disappointed, having swallowed on Saturday perhaps the most disappointing 1-1 tie in the country's history - and to the Americans, no less - a stream of white-and-red clad folks walked to cars and busses knowing victory was left on the grass behind them.

In each team's World Cup opener, the U.S. and England played to a draw. The U.S. next plays on Friday against Slovenia.

"It's a bit frustrating not to get a win," said England midfielder Frank Lampard.

England's win slipped away in the same moment as goalie Robert Green's grip on that darned Jabulani, Adidas's free-spirited game ball. In the 40th minute, on a routine bouncing shot from U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey, Green knelt to gather Jabulani in his arms, but instead saw it roll over his right side and, excruciatingly, across the goal line.

"You never want to see that for an opposing player," said U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra. "Hopefully the English papers take it easy on him. It's too bad, actually. Us, in the locker room as well, we feel bad that that has to happen to one person. We're happy we scored and got back in the game, but you never want to see that."

After retrieving the ball from its unwelcome place inside his goal, Green held up his palm to his English teammates as if to say, "Yes, that was my bad."

It really was. Talking heads are already calling it the worst blown save in World Cup history, although surely Green has competition.

In almost all minutes but the 40th, England appeared the victor, scoring in the fourth minute on an across-the-grain push shot from captain Steve Gerrard and accumulating the bulk of the chances throughout.

But the U.S. received at least a half dozen heroic saves from the FIFA Man of the Match, goalie Tim Howard, who stayed on the field despite an ugly first-half collision that he deemed "agony."

"I guess the good thing about us is we've showed in the past that when that stuff happens to us, we don't put our heads down and pout," said U.S. defender Jay DeMerit. "It's very easy after going down so early to say, 'Oh, here we go, it's going to be a long day.' "

In the 40th minute, Dempsey held possession of the ball from well outside the box, turning first over his left shoulder, then over his right, looking for room. At last he discovered a slice of open space and tried his ambitious left-footed attempt. The ball bounced twice before reaching Green, who knelt awaiting its arrival.

Afterward, Green called it "a mistake" and said "it's one of those things you hope never happens, but that's life."

"It's one of those things, people have been sore about the ball, and the ball is tricky," explained Gerrard. "I'm sure he'll make an important save down the line for us."

Dempsey had already begun turning for his retreat downfield. U.S. coach Bob Bradley swiveled his head from goal to referee to player, waiting for verification that - yes - this incredibly odd goal belonged to the U.S.

It did. And it would be all the U.S. needed.

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.