New England Revolution: World Cup

Spain team earns it the hard way

July, 11, 2010
7/11/10
9:11
PM ET
Spain were deserving 1-0 winners in extra time at the 2010 FIFA World Cup final at Soccer City in Johannesburg. Andrés Iniesta scored a goal that befitted the Spanish style, one that emphasized technique and a cerebral approach to the beautiful game.

Though Spain scored only eight goals in their seven World Cup matches, their ball possession and combination-oriented approach triumphed over a Holland side that abandoned their “Total Football” heritage for a more pragmatic, 21st-century, fitness-oriented way of playing.

Thus, anyone hoping for a flowing festival of skillful soccer would be disappointed for long spells of this final. We saw flashes of brilliance from both teams, but it was clear that the Dutch knew they were the less-skilled team man-for-man and were intent on doing more of the destroying, as evidenced by the World Cup final record 14 yellow cards. Forty-seven fouls (28 committed by the Dutch) is a high total for two such technically gifted teams, but with so much at stake and the Spanish so dominating possession versus the Germans in their semifinal win it was always going to be this way in the final.

Both teams worked extremely hard to win the ball back in the opening quarter of an hour at Soccer City. Holland was right up in the Spain players’ shirts in the midfield, and the likes of Spain’s Pedro hardly had a touch. Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, the prime attacking threats for the Dutch, were hardly on the ball either. Still, the Spaniards did string together some of their trademark passing combinations in a rhythm both pleasing to the eye and troubling to opposing defenders.

The first real Spanish attacking threat was Sergio Ramos’ powerful header off Xavi’s 5th-minute free kick that forced a great save from Maarten Stekelenburg. In the 11th minute, Ramos skinned Dirk Kuyt in the box to drive a low, hard cross into the Holland goalmouth but it was cleared over the line for a corner.

The fact that Spain central defender Carlos Puyol and Netherlands tough man Mark Van Bommel were both booked by Howard Webb before the midway point of the first half was an attempt by the English referee to take some of the sting out of what was already becoming a mean-tempered game. The hope was that the skill players would have more room to roam, though that never really came to pass in this contest.

Netherlands central midfielder Nigel De Jong had to consider himself lucky to have not been thrown out of the game by Webb after his studs-up karate kick into the sternum of Spanish midfield orchestrator Xavi Alonso in the 28th minute.

No team is fit enough to sustain hurried defensive pressure for 90 minutes so the Netherlands predictably did drop off a bit more as the first half wore on. But they were still picking up good spots and tackling with a bite that bordered on nastiness. On the rare occasions when the Dutch did allow space, such as in the 38th minute when Pedro got free to unleash a long-range blast off target after a 1 v 4 dribble run, Spain looked dangerous.

It was not a great game for the purists through the opening 45 minutes, and the match was crying out for a goal by either team just to open things up. The Dutch went close twice right before halftime, including a great bid by Robben, but the teams went into the halftime interval tied 0-0.

The field opened up a bit more in the opening minutes of the second half, with Holland spurning a couple of opportunities after uncharacteristic Spanish giveaways from offline passes straight back to their opponents.

Webb, who been right on (other than the shout for the red card on De Jong), strangely booked Giovanni von Bronckhorst for an innocuous tug on Sergio Ramos. Moments later, Webb got sold a bill of goods by David Villa, who went down as if hacked by a machete as John Heitinga came in late on him but not hard enough to warrant a card.

A potential game-winning moment came in the 62nd minute when Sneijder released Robben with a dagger ball out of midfield for a 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper. Spain’s Iker Casillas came off his line and came up big with a save off the heel of his boot. Robben should have scored with it looking unlikely that the Netherlands would get another such chance again in the game.

As the match moved into the 70th minute, substitute Jesús Navas set up Villa for a shot that Heitenga just barely blocked in the goalmouth. Spain ware not dominant during this passage of play, though they still had more of the ball and Navas was starting to really have his way with Dutch fullback Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (playing his final game as a pro) down Spain’s right wing.

With 15 minutes to go in regulation, all the computer-generated touch charts showed the Spain’s midfielders -- Xavi, Xavi Alonso and Sergio Busquets -- dominating possession over the course of the game.

In the 77th minute, a signature Spanish combination up the middle of the park led to a corner kick. Again, Sergio Ramos could have been the hero, but he sent a free header high over the crossbar and the game remained deadlocked at 0-0. The sour nature of the match also continued when Iniesta and Van Bommel got tangled up on a tit-for-tat retaliation sequence.

Robben did get another glowing breakaway chance with the Dutch playing mostly to counterattack late in the game. Though Robben could have earned a penalty kick and probably gotten Puyol red-carded if he’d gone down in the box, he elected to keep his feet at the end of his dribble run and saw Casillas steal the ball off of his shoelaces.

At this point, despite their team having 60 percent-plus of the possession and several great chances to score in regulation time, the Spanish players had to know they were fortunate to not have seen Robben bury at least one of his two big chances as the teams moved into 30 minutes of extra time.

In the second minute of the first extra time period, Spain had a shout for a penalty when Xavi appeared to go down under a challenge from Heitenga. Replays confirmed, however, that Webb correctly elected to not call a foul on the play.

In the 95th minute, Spanish sub Cesc Fabergas got clean through on Stekelenburg. This time it was the Dutch keeper who made a huge foot save to keep the score knotted at 0-0. Shortly thereafter, both Iniesta and Navas had good scoring chances and Spain was clearly the more dangerous attacking side in overtime.

Some will say it was an audacious move for Spanish manager Vicente del Bosque to pull off his leading scorer, Villa, at the start of the second period of extra time in favor of out-of-form striker Fernando Torres. Torres was, of course, the goal-scoring hero in the Euro 2008 final and he scores prolifically at club level for Liverpool, but hasn’t been himself in this tournament coming off of knee surgery this past spring. But the move would pay off just minutes later.

And with all the yellow cards it was almost inevitable that someone in an orange shirt was going to pick up a second one, and it turned out to be Heitinga, who received that dubious distinction in the 109th minute after he hauled down Iniesta on the back end of a well-worked move triggered by Xavi.

Iniesta, a big part of this Barcelona-led skill movement in the Spanish national team setup, took his 116th-minute chance with aplomb after a Dutch giveaway led to a bouncing, short Fabergas setup pass from the top of the penalty area. Iniesta let the ball settle before smashing it home powerfully past Stekelenburg, who just got a hand to the shot but had very little chance to save it.

Though the goal was mostly Iniesta and Fabergas’ doing, it wouldn’t have happened if Torres hadn’t sent his diagonal cross to the top of the Dutch area. Del Bosque’s substitution looked like a savvy one as a result (though Torres did go down with a leg injury late in extra time).

In the end, it was the Spanish who were doing their victory dance -- Castilians, Basques and Catalans, Barcelona players with Real Madrid players -- all together bouncing and singing in unison.

For the first time ever, Spain are the World Cup champs and they certainly earned it with their ability, their approach to the sport and their execution in the big moments in this World Cup.


Brad Feldman is the television and radio play-by-play voice of the New England Revolution and supervising producer for all of the Revolution's regional telecasts. He is host of the online programs RevsWrap and In the Net and has 12 years of experience announcing and producing MLS and international soccer TV. He will be blogging on the FIFA World Cup for ESPN Boston throughout the tournament.

Revs' take on Cup quarterfinals

July, 2, 2010
7/02/10
8:57
PM ET
SALT LAKE CITY -- There was only one thing going on at the Revolution’s team hotel in Salt Lake City this morning as the players awaited their evening matchup with defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake: Wake up, load up at the breakfast buffet in the lobby, and head back to the room to watch Brazil-Netherlands in the World Cup quarterfinals.

What an upset. The Nederlanders rode their luck, technical ability and Brazil’s lack of composure to a semifinal berth with their 2-1 victory. One felt like these teams could play nine more times in a row and the Dutch might not win another game, but this was their day.

Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis was, like most observers, not expecting an Orange victory. “I was kind of surprised seeing the game and watching Brazil go up early,” said Reis. “I thought it was just going to be a cruise for them. But Brazil really didn’t seem to attack much after their goal and Holland fought their way back into it."

As might be expected, Reis praised the work of the Netherlands goalkeeper.

“Maarten Stekelenburg made an incredible save on Kaká to keep it close,” Reis said. “The Dutch prevailed in the end and the Brazilian players kind of lost their heads. [Brazil midfielder] Felipe Melo had the game of his life: He had a red card, the own goal, and he left his man on the second goal. Poor guy. I’m not sure he’s going to be allowed back into Rio de Janeiro.”

Revs defender/midfielder Chris Tierney said Holland was fortunate to take the victory. “It was a good game and an amazing result for the Netherlands,” he said. “I thought they were a little lucky to come away with the win. I thought that Brazil controlled the game and had a couple of chances that, had they put them away, it would have been a different story."

The hopes of all of sub-Saharan Africans rested with the Black Stars of Ghana as the only remaining team from the host continent still in the competition, so Ghana’s loss to Uruguay on penalty kicks was a stunning disappointment.

For Ghana to see Asamoah Gyan miss his penalty kick opportunity in added time of the second overtime period -- which, if converted, would have set off celebrations from Mali to Malawi -- and then lose in the shootout was just too cruel from an African perspective.

As the Revs players filed into the pregame meal in the afternoon, Gambian midfielder/forward Kenny Mansally agreed that Africans were unified in their support for Ghana. “Every African in the whole continent was for Ghana. They were the only African team left. Now that they’re out of the tournament you can see the African faces are so sad. Even the South Africans. All the Africans I know right now are sad,” he said.

Once Gyan missed his stoppage-time penalty, Mansally said, he felt the belief slipping from the Ghanaian players and fans. “After that opportunity they got and then they lose it for me, I was like, ‘This is it, and we’re done.’ Because when you lose that kind of opportunity it takes heart away from people. So when he [missed] that PK, the feeling was, we’re not going to make it anymore,” said Mansally.

As Mansally spoke, his compatriot Sainey Nyassi walked past on his way to the meal. “My heart is bleeding,” said Nyassi. The Revolution’s lone player from Ghana, Emmanuel Osei, meanwhile, never emerged from his hotel room to attend the meal.

From a tactical perspective, the pro players felt Uruguay striker Luis Suárez made a savvy play to keep the ball out of the net with his arm during a late barrage by Ghana. “It’s going to turn out to be one of the best handballs of all time by Suárez,” said Tierney.

Asked if the rules should be changed to award a goal in situations when field players deliberately handle the ball on the goal line, Tierney’s reply was that players have to play the laws of the game as they are written. “That’s the debate. It’s something Sepp Blatter and FIFA have to think about. But credit to Suárez. He made a quick decision,” he said.

Tierney also said he respected Gyan’s composure and willingness to take and stroke home a confident penalty kick in the shootout just minutes after crashing his previous effort off the bar. “Obviously Ghana had a great opportunity to win it for Africa. But that’s soccer. It’s cruel.”

Brad Feldman is the television and radio play-by-play voice of the New England Revolution and supervising producer for all of the Revolution's regional telecasts. He is host of the online programs RevsWrap and In the Net and has 12 years of experience announcing and producing MLS and international soccer TV. He will be blogging on the FIFA World Cup for ESPN Boston throughout the tournament.

Nyassi, Dube cheer Ghana from afar

June, 30, 2010
6/30/10
9:43
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As a West African from Gambia, Revolution midfielder Sainey Nyassi felt slightly conflicted last week when Ghana and the United States faced off in a round-of-16 World Cup match in South Africa.

“When Ghana played the U.S., I would be happy if the U.S. won because it would promote the league a lot,’’ Nyassi said. “A lot of people out there would know what MLS is about. On the other side, I’m African so I told my friends that Ghana is winning, and they did. They didn’t really surprise me because they have a lot of talented players who are young, fight hard and are energetic. So it wasn’t a surprise.’’

Ghana’s 2-1 overtime win propelled the country to the tournament’s quarterfinal round Friday against Uruguay. The Ghanaians also carried the torch for an entire continent as the sole surviving African country out of six to qualify.

“They are making every African proud,’’ he said. “They are the only African team left in the competition and hopefully they will beat Uruguay and they will get to the semifinal."

Ghana also defeated the United States in the 2006 World Cup held in Germany, then lost to Brazil in the first knockout round. This time around, the team, which has dealt admirably with the loss to injury of its most prominent player, Michael Essien (who has not played in the tourney), has ridden the talents of some young players mixed in with older veterans. Friday’s game against Uruguay could be especially challenging considering Ghana will play without 20-year-old Alex Ayew and Jonathan Mensah (suspensions), while Kevin Prince Boateng is questionable with a hamstring injury.

“Ghana is a small country and the U.S. is 10 times bigger than Ghana,’’ said Nyassi. “It’s all about commitment and what you believe as a team and what work you do on the field. Ghana came all out and worked hard as a team and that’s how they got results as a team.’’

Forward Kheli Dube, a Zimbabwe native, said Ghana has ensured that Africa would be represented into the tournament’s final stages.

“You have so much pride because they are the only African team that’s there right now,’’ he said. “Watching from here knowing that one of the African countries is doing well is a good thing. I had my money on the Ivory Coast. But I knew Ghana was a better team. If you look at Ghana, they have all the boys from the under-20’s and they won the [youth] World Cup. So if you have a mix of the big players and the young guys, it makes them work harder. I think what’s also helped the Ghana team is every time they stepped on the field they were underdogs. Then they come out big winners.’’

Dube said he never felt it would be catastrophic for Africa not to have a final eight team.

“Not really because nobody is guaranteed a place,’’ he said. “Look at Italy and France. They did not qualify and they are big names. Ghana came out and surprised. They produce a lot of talent. Look at the guys who play in Europe. It’s a lot of guys. Then look at the young guys that are coming through. You know after the World Cup they are going to Europe. So they have a good junior development cycle.’’

Nyassi said the thing he likes most about Ghana is they haven’t abandoned the creative African way of playing.

“Cameroon, Ivory Coast and other countries look more like European teams,’’ he said. “Ghana is a typical African team. You can tell by watching them play. A couple of players there are playing back in Africa so their game is a lot different than a lot of other African countries. They put things together, play as a team, fight as a team and defend as a team and that’s how they get results.’’

Dube did, however, acknowledge that the tournament would have suffered without an African team still alive.

“That would have been a blow,’’ he said. “I was there with my fingers crossed waiting for Ghana. It would have been a disappointment because the tournament is played back in Africa. Ivory Coast and countries like Nigeria should have qualified. But since Ghana is there it’s good for all African countries.’’

Analysis: Magical moment for U.S.

June, 23, 2010
6/23/10
2:14
PM ET


That was exhilarating. There’s nothing like having that much tension in a game, never knowing if or when the moment you’re praying for will arrive, then having all that relief and positive emotion pour out in an instant. Going through that surrounded by dozens or hundreds or thousands of like-minded folks … well, now we here in the good ol’ U-S-of-A are starting to get a real taste of what this soccer thing is all about.

What a great scene, the U.S. bench emptying out to pigpile Landon Donovan after he scored the stoppage-time winner over Algeria to send the Red, White and Blue through to the knockout phase of the World Cup and clinch first place in Group C. And you know fans were piling on one another in celebration in bars, restaurants and homes all over the country at the same time.

The Americans deserved this one. Coach Bob Bradley was gutsy with his tactics, his starting team selection and his substitutions. The U.S. players worked their socks off and, though at times looking snake-bitten in front of the goal, deserved this win big time. Algeria, meanwhile, seemed curiously as if it were playing for a 0-0 draw in the second half despite needing a win to have any hope of advancing. Curious.

More curious still was the terrible offside call in the first half denying former Revolution star Clint Dempsey and the U.S. of what replays clearly showed was a good goal. What a controversy there would have been if the Americans had been bounced from the tournament without a win, especially with two apparent fair goals being taken away by the officials in their last two matches.

Well, it didn’t turn out that way. All the hit posts and near misses and shots that went narrowly wide or were saved in what seemed like a constant U.S. onslaught on the Algerian goal can now be forgiven and forgotten after Donovan slotted his shot home.

So now, USA fans, pick your poison: Do you prefer Germany, Serbia or Ghana?

Brad Feldman is the television and radio play-by-play voice of the New England Revolution and supervising producer for all of the Revolution's regional telecasts. He is host of the online programs RevsWrap and In the Net and has 12 years of experience announcing and producing MLS and international soccer TV. He will be blogging on the FIFA World Cup for ESPN Boston throughout the tournament.

Coaches entitled to question the refs

June, 21, 2010
6/21/10
11:15
PM ET
As an announcer myself, I always try to pay careful attention to the commentary when I'm watching a soccer game, especially in this World Cup, for which ESPN has assembled some of the best broadcasting talent in the history of the sport. Certainly, the announcers are way ahead of the referees in this FIFA World Cup so far.

Live game announcers take a risk when offering opinions on events unfolding in front of their eyes. Even though they see the action with the naked eye (and have the benefit of replay monitors), they have to make snap judgments and put events in context on the fly. Unlike writers and pundits back in the studio, the guys in the booth put their opinions out there in real time and don't always have the luxury of rethinking or rewriting them in advance.

So it was with interest that I listened to the first-rate tandem of Martin Tyler (arguably the gold standard at his position) and Ally McCoist saving so much of their criticism around the Brazil-Ivory Coast game for Brazil coach Dunga. Yes, he went ballistic at almost any perceived foul or contact to one of his high-priced superstars. Yes, he fueled the confrontational tone to the game with his remonstrations against French referee Stephane Lannoy. I, however, thought it was mostly justified, given the way the game went. For me, Lannoy was the problem, not Dunga.

Luis Fabiano's two-handball, "beautiful" goal in the 49th moved things toward farcical territory in a tense matchup between two strong sides. Then to see Lannoy apparently joking with Fabiano about the play turned the stomach of anyone who saw the super-slow-mo replays of the goal.

And after Elano struck for Brazil in the 61st to make it 3-0, it was wheels off. There were some terrible tackles flying around, most of them by players in green-and-white Ivory Coast jerseys. When Ismael Tioté sent Elano hobbling off the field after a studs-up challenge that went uncarded, the Brazilians were always going to try to show up the Ivoirians. All the confrontations that ensued could have been avoided if Lannoy had gotten control of the game. The ridiculous sending off of Kaká for a bogus second yellow (Kader Keita initiated the contact, not to mention perpetrating the worst play-acting since Rivaldo in 2002 versus Turkey) should have never happened.

There have been other controversial and outright bad calls that have gotten headlines -- Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami's red against Chile and South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune's sending off versus Uruguay come to mind -- but no call has gotten the negative attention that the foul call by now-infamous Koman Coulibaly has.

By robbing the U.S. of a legendary comeback against Slovenia, Coulibaly has done a lot of things. Yes, his call hurt the USA's opportunity to advance, but it also stirred tremendous interest and debate around the World Cup in this country and set up a win-and-you're-in scenario for the Yanks on Wednesday against Algeria. That's all -- in a backhanded way -- good for the game here in the States.

But that's not what we want here. Americans want a rational, just approach and feel entitled to be outraged when they don't get that. For that reason, it's been impressive -- if a bit frustrating -- to hear Bob Bradley's philosophical approach to FIFA's maddening unwillingness to use instant replay or at least have their refs explain their controversial calls on the field or after the fact.

Which is why I would have focused on Lannoy's behavior and not Dunga's. Just as the games in this tournament have started to get some juice, some real excitement, the referees have become too much a part of the story. Let the coaches rant and rave. The way things are going right now, they're entitled to.

Brad Feldman is the television and radio play-by-play voice of the New England Revolution and supervising producer for all of the Revolution's regional telecasts. He is host of the online programs RevsWrap and In the Net and has 12 years of experience announcing and producing MLS and international soccer TV. He will be blogging on the FIFA World Cup for ESPN Boston throughout the tournament.

Switzerland-Spain ups Cup ante

June, 16, 2010
6/16/10
7:28
PM ET
This is a good day for good soccer. Let’s be truthful, some of the more anticipated World Cup matches so far have disappointed in terms of quality and excitement -- Portugal/Ivory Coast and Netherlands/Denmark come to mind. Today, however, not only were there a couple of good games to watch, but we had our first major upset.

In the early match, Chile was a deserved winner over a game Honduras side that isn’t quite up to Chile’s level but is underrated nonetheless. The Hondurans misfortune is being drawn into Group H with the likes of Spain, Switzerland and Chile.

You want to talk about good-looking football, the Spanish play with style and you could see from the opening of their game against Switzerland that the Swiss setup -- as pointed out by Robbie Mustoe -- was designed to keep the likes of Barcelona superstars Xavi and Andrés Iniesta from playing their short passing game through the middle. Swiss manager Ottmar Hizfeld is no dummy; he looked at the skill-packed Spanish lineup and decided that his job wasn’t to create entertainment but rather to try to dig out a result.

While Switzerland defended stoutly in the first half, Spain certainly threatened. Gerard Piqué had a great chance in the 24th minute for the defending European champs but Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio was up to the task and made a great save. This would be a theme throughout the game.

In the 30th minute, Stéphane Grichting fouled Iniesta and was booked after a knifing run and dagger ball out of midfield, but the ensuing free kick went begging. Things started to look dire for the Swiss defensive effort when manager Hitzfeld had to withdraw Phillipe Senderos because of an injury.

Spain continued to threaten in the first half -- passing, moving without the ball and dribbling through the Swiss like they were, well, Swiss cheese. David Villa went close a couple of times right at the end of the first half, but somehow the score stayed 0-0. Through 45 minutes, Spain had 72 percent of possession, according to espnsoccernet.com.

Then, in the opening five minutes of the second half, Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso increasingly tried to influence the Spanish attack and it seemed like it was just a matter of time before a goal came.

Well, in the 52nd minute there was a goal but -- shock of shocks -- it was Switzerland who scored. Gelson Fernandez capitalized on Spain goalie Iker Casillas’ error, but it was Eren Derdiyok who laid out bravely to pry the ball loose. 1-0 to the Swiss. Wow.

Now things were going to get interesting. Spain picked up the pace and the field suddenly seemed more stretched while Switzerland started to feel the confidence flowing after the goal. With Spain pressing right at the hour mark, Benaglio made another big play, beating Villa to the ball at the top of the box.

Spain manager Vicente del Bosque then pulled David Silva and Sergio Busquets off for Jesús Nava and, significantly, Liverpool’s El Niño, Fernando Torres. With Torres moving in next to Villa in a 4-4-2, the tactical change nearly paid dividends right away, with Iniesta again close to scoring. Still, the land of fondue and numbered bank accounts held its lead.

Alonso’s 70th-minute rocket off the crossbar on a corner (produced by a Torres-created chance) with a driving run and shot was further warning that Spain had its tails up. Right at 74’, Derdiyok nearly scored twice in a row and things continued to open up.

Iniesta went off for Pedro (after getting crushed by Stephan Lichtsteiner) a loss for Spain for sure because Iniesta had been creating so well. I’ve been a Hakan Yakin fan since his glory days at FC Basel, but I was surprised to see Hitzfeld take Derdiyok off in favor of the skillful Yakin. Clearly it was an experience thing.

With Spain throwing numbers forward in the closing minutes, it seemed impossible that English referee Howard Webb could come up with five minutes of added time. But the Swiss -- they know how to keep track of time -- managed the stoppage time well (though a Yakin handball gave Spain a late attacking free kick) and the 1-0 upset was complete.

The lesson here is that pretty, passing soccer doesn’t always do the job. Spain had 74 percent of the possession and a 24-8 edge in shots, so it’s not that the Spaniards tried to walk the ball into the net, but rather that Switzerland's organization, opportunism and great goalkeeping were enough to stifle Spain’s superior skill.

The Spanish are not just the Group H favorites but many bookmakers’ favorites to win the whole tournament, so this result is massive. Still, I think Alexi Lalas was overstating his case to call Switzerland a “blind squirrel.” This is a good Swiss side with several quality players and a savvy coach.

Brad Feldman is the television and radio play-by-play voice of the New England Revolution and supervising producer for all of the Revolution's regional telecasts. He is host of the online programs RevsWrap and In the Net and has 12 years of experience announcing and producing MLS and international soccer TV. He will be blogging on the FIFA World Cup for ESPN Boston throughout the tournament.

Feldman's take: Success all around

June, 12, 2010
6/12/10
9:29
PM ET


BOSTON -- I was representing the Red, White and Blue on Friday night at the Paradise on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston with my vintage 1996 U.S. Olympic Team No. 12 shirt. I went to see Buffalo Tom, a great Boston rock band for sure, but one more closely associated with the local baseball team than with soccer. Read: a lot of ballcaps in the audience; not too many USA shirts, and this the night before arguably the biggest soccer game for this country, ever.

As I waded through the crowd in the half-dark before Buff Tom’s set, some wiseacre Englishman quipped, “So there are soccer fans in this country.”

Not wishing to set off a soccer riot at a rock club, I just told him, “You just wait and see tomorrow, brother.”

Well, if my fine-feathered English friend managed to make it to the House of Blues for the U.S. vs. England match, he would have witnessed a scene that would make any soccer nation proud and put to rest any further snark on his part. As would the 1-1 result.

There were U.S. soccer fans aplenty (the place looked packed to the gills) and a palpable energy in the building from the pregame buildup through the final whistle. There was even an edge of potential good-natured mayhem on Landsdowne Street as USA jersey-wearing fans intermingled with the late-afternoon-arriving Red Sox crowd. It all felt big-time, festive and a little wild, befitting a World Cup clash of this magnitude.

Certainly, the U.S. team rose to the occasion. No doubt, goalkeeper Tim Howard was too busy for comfort in the second half and was the Americans’ clear Man of the Match. But the Yanks were not in over their heads in this game. Steve Cherundolo, Landon Donovan and U.S. goal-scorer Clint Dempsey had strong games. Ricardo Clark, and to a lesser extent Michael Bradley, were at times overrun by England’s world-class midfield, but to be fair they stood up well over 90 minutes and Clark learned quickly from his snooze on the fourth-minute goal by England.

Yes, English goalkeeper Robert Green made a blunder for the ages in gifting Dempsey’s 40th-minute goal, but you can’t say it came against the run of play.

And while the final 20 minutes saw the Three Lions dominate possession and wave after wave of England attacking buildups (especially down their right ride, where Aaron Lennon, Glen Johnson and sometimes England goal-scorer Steven Gerrard all looked dangerous), the U.S. also could have gone up 2-1 in the 65th minute after Donovan released Jozy Altidore for a powerful dribble run into the box that ended with Green just saving the U.S. striker’s low effort off the near post.

MLS represented itself well too. Eight of the 11 American starters play or played in the U.S. domestic top flight. And it’s true that Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley appeared to lack the technique and confidence to make an impact in a match at the international level. But overall, if there were no names on jerseys, there wasn’t that much separating the products of famed youth systems such as West Ham, Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea from former New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls and San Jose Earthquakes (and U.S. college) players.

Overall, a good day for U.S. soccer that very much keeps alive the Americans’ hopes of advancing from group play. And good times for sure at the House of Blues.

Notes:

" It’s a justifiable source of pride to New England soccer fans to witness ex-Revolution man Clint Dempsey’s emergence as a world star and leader on the U.S. National Team. So, too, should local fans kvell when hearing the dulcet tones of former Revs announcer and Boston-area radio jock Adrian Healey call big games for ESPN from South Africa all month long. ESPN/ABC broadcasters Alexi Lalas, John Harks and Derek Rae all have histories with the Revolution and JP Dellacamera and Robbie Mustoe are New England residents too. Those good men are certainly sources of regional soccer pride as well. But Dempsey and Healey both come out of the Revs’ run of success in the last decade and it feels like they’re our guys on the ground over there.

" There are no lions living in England (outside of zoos), at least that I know of. There are, meanwhile, mountain lions all over the U.S., but we don’t put pictures of them on our soccer federation logo like the English do. I’m partial to the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake for occasions such as these anyway.

" I don’t love that the U.S. has co-opted the Brit moniker “Yanks” as a nickname for our national team, though that probably has a lot to do with my baseball allegiances. I can, however, get with the Cockney rhyming slang derivative, “Sherman Tanks.” Roll the Tanks, baby.

" Should I be worried that I’m hearing incessant buzzing of the vuvuzela horns even when the games aren’t on? I called in the exterminators but it turned out there were not bee or wasp nests to be found anywhere around my house. Call it madness or call it World Cup fever.

Brad Feldman is the television and radio play-by-play voice of the New England Revolution and supervising producer for all of the Revolution's regional telecasts. He is host of the online programs RevsWrap and In the Net and has 12 years of experience announcing and producing MLS and international soccer TV. He will be blogging on the FIFA World Cup for ESPN Boston throughout the tournament.

Revs' Ralston, Gibbs on US-England

June, 12, 2010
6/12/10
9:09
PM ET
BOSTON -- Steve Ralston and Cory Gibbs of the Revolution were at the World Cup Boston viewing party for USA-England and share their thoughts here.



Here's Gibbs:





Fans satisfied with effort

June, 12, 2010
6/12/10
5:45
PM ET


BOSTON -- Clint Dempsey’s riveting goal in the 40th minute (or Robert Green’s flub, however you want to view it) sent the 3,000-plus in attendance at the House of Blues into a joyous roar.

Fans packed the venue, dressed in all sorts of creative garb, from the standard (face paint, flags, horns) to the smart (one fan, a history major at Boston University, dressed as a Revoutionary-era soldier) to the silly (it wouldn’t be complete without a RootSuit sighting, would it?).

But the faithful filed out fairly quickly once the final whistle blew on this 1-1 tie in the U.S.’s group play opener with England. After all, there was a Red Sox game to catch across the street.

American fans generally came away with the same sentiments, albeit to varying degrees. While the Yanks got off to a bad start, their effort over the final 60 minutes was encouraging enough to elicit confidence in the team going forward.

“The U.S. played hard, they earned a good tie,” said Bobby DeLuca, 38, of Watertown. “I’d like to see them play a little more aggressive going forward.”

Kyle Nasman, 23, of Mission Hill, said, "I’ll take anything. It doesn’t matter how you play, it’s always good to avoid a loss.”

As for the atmosphere? Nasman’s buddy Nick Brown, 21, chuckled “better than sitting [on a] couch.” He donned a different color -- South Africa’s yellow long-sleeved jersey -- though he said it was only because he didn’t have any U.S. gear.

Getting in the spirit

June, 12, 2010
6/12/10
2:18
PM ET
BOSTON -- In the over-the-top-excited category, 17-year-old Needham resident Kaushik Vasudevan is ahead by a country mile an hour before kickoff here at House of Blues Boston. The Needham High student is decked out in already-peeling face paint, plastic Uncle Sam hat and American flag draped over his skinny shoulders, and has been running back and forth in front of the big screen, blowing his long horn, starting chants and egging on the crowd.

“So pumped!” Vasudevan yelled when asked arguably the most obvious question in the world ("How pumped are you?"). “Beat the UK!”

After hitting up a party store last night and spending a half-hour working on his face this morning, Vasudevan met up with his friends at Elliot Station in Newton at 9 a.m. They then hopped on the T and promptly chanted “U-S-A!” the whole way over.

His friends -- themselves sporting red, white and blue afro wigs -- estimate that over the course of the ride to Kenmore Square, they handed out about 50 miniature American flags to passengers.

Here’s hoping Vasudevan and his crew don’t run out of caffeine.

Also, we've got our first extended "Beat LA!" chant going.

Live from World Cup Boston viewing party

June, 12, 2010
6/12/10
12:57
PM ET
BOSTON -- Good afternoon from the House of Blues Boston where World Cup Boston 2010 is hosting a viewing party featuring today’s match between the U.S. and England.

As both teams readied for their first match, fans of both sides were on hand starting at 10 a.m. to catch Argentina-Nigeria and get an early start to their revelry.

Caught on both sides of this afternoon’s match was Peter Miller of Lowell, Mass. Although Miller was sporting a U.S. kit, he was born in England and still has a soft spot in his heart for his native Three Lions’ side.

“But today, it’s gotta be the U.S.A.,” Miller said.

Keep it here on the Revolution blog throughout the day for updates and video snippets from the event.

Or, if you’re in the Fenway neighborhood, stop on by to meet members of the New England Revolution and Boston Breakers who will be on hand later in the day.

And the best part of all? It’s FREE!

SPONSORED HEADLINES