BEING LUCKY is better than being good only if you take advantage of your fortune.
So now that goalie Rob Green is being cited in England as committing the biggest blunder against the United States since Charles Cornwallis allowed the British army to get bottled up at Yorktown, what's next?
The U.S. national team got a gift Saturday when Green fumbled what should have been an easily saved shot from midfielder Clint Dempsey.
Green's gaffe allowed the United States to get a surprising 1-1 draw in its 2010 World Cup opener. So the USA got a valuable point out of the contest virtually everyone said would be its toughest in qualifying play.
Suddenly it is positioned to not just advance out of Group C, but to possibly win it.
"A first game is about getting something," said U.S. coach Bob Bradley. "Now we move forward with a good sense that we can keep pushing hard and play well."
This was a stunning result, especially after heavily favored England jumped ahead with a goal less than 5 minutes after kickoff, but it doesn't turn Group C on its ear. With Slovenia and Algeria considered two of the weakest teams in the 32-nation field, England and the United States were the favorites to advance.
And after the first round of games, nothing has changed.
In fact, Friday's game against Slovenia in Johannesburg is still the biggest game for the United States - as it has always been.
It's even more of a must-win situation now that Slovenia leads Group C after a late goal gave it a 1-0 victory over Algeria yesterday.
If the USA loses, it can all but kiss its chances of advancement goodbye. If it ties, circumstances will only be slightly better.
It's another one of those moments for U.S. soccer.
The spotlight is hot again.
The result against England has the country buzzing. America, not just American soccer fans, is looking to embrace this squad.
The country is waiting for the national team to give it a reason to care, to be convinced that all the talk about development and advancement of the game here is more than just lip service.
Team USA first had this opportunity at the 1998 World Cup, one cycle after it had unexpectedly advanced out of round-robin play as the host nation in 1994.
The 0-3-0 showing in France, which included a spirit-deflating loss to Iran, is considered the most embarrassing in U.S. soccer history.
The chance was there again at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea when the U.S. team advanced to the quarterfinals to take on Germany. Soccer aficionados know the 1-0 loss was respectable, but to most Americans it was more proof we can't hang with the big boys.
No missed opportunity was as bad as 2006, when ESPN and a bogus FIFA ranking had America convinced it had its best World Cup team ever. Technically, the 0-2-1 finish wasn't as bad as the debacle in France - there was a draw with eventual champion Italy - but it was a devastating blow for U.S. credibility.
Even last summer when it reached the final of the Confederations Cup, the national team missed a prime opportunity. Losing by 3-2 to Brazil was not a bad result, but blowing a 2-0 halftime lead didn't convert many skeptics.
So here U.S. soccer sits again.
The draw against the Brits and the international furor it has caused has the spotlight on the national team again.
It was estimated that between 15 million and 18 million viewers in America would watch the game against England on ABC. The nation is not going to come to a standstill because the USA is playing a World Cup game, especially against Slovenia at 10 a.m. on a Friday.
But America will be paying attention, just as it will be paying attention when the national team plays its last qualifier against Algeria on June 23.
Americans have been told these are games the United States should win.
The draw with England didn't lower the pressure. It raised it.
Before this tournament started, the United States was viewed as having its best first-round draw ever in a World Cup. This could be the first time the USA was favored to advance out of group play.
It's going to be considered a significant failure if it does not.
Taking into account what happened Saturday, the verdict will be that it choked if the USA does not advance now.
Take care of business and win these next two games and the USA is guaranteed to move on.
The United States got lucky against England.
Now it needs to be good - good enough to beat Slovenia and then Algeria, just as everyone expects.
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