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RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- Meet Clintinho, Jabulani and Green.
They're not finalists in "Dancing with the Stars." But theirs is an act that served the U.S. well in its 1-1 World Cup draw with England on Saturday.
Clint Dempsey, a.k.a. "Clintinho" for the Brazilian flair he can bring to the game, scored the lone goal for the U.S. to give the Yanks a point in the opening match of Group C.
And Dempsey definitely performed a samba around England midfielder Steven Gerrard, skinning and spinning the Three Lions star to free himself for the shot from just outside the penalty area.
But the American midfielder had ample help on the goal -- first from the ball, the Adidas Jabulani, which darts and skitters and shimmies when kicked, and then from England goalkeeper Robert Green.
Dempsey hit the Jabulani with his left foot, and it snaked along the ground at Royal Bafokeng Stadium, into the hands of a lunging Green -- then through them. The ball crawled across the line, with Green crawling behind, making a graceless, despairing lunge to avoid British tabloid infamy. Didn't work.
The ball was definitely part of the story. Players have talked often in the run-up to the World Cup about how unpredictable its flight is, and Saturday it seemed not only to soar in the nearly mile-high altitude of Rustenburg, it took outsized, and sometimes strange, bounces as well. "The ball just moves all over the place," Dempsey said.
And Dempsey said it "skidded" on his shot.
A few players expressed sympathy for Green, including U.S. keeper Tim Howard. "This ball is really doing silly things," he said. "I feel bad for the guy."
At the same time, stopping shots that hit the hands is a fairly basic task for a world-class keeper, one Green made a mess of. "It's a shot you think the keeper would make a save on, but ... I'll take it," Dempsey said. It was his second career World Cup goal, the previous coming in a U.S. loss to Ghana in the Yanks' last game of the 2006 first round.
This score came at a crucial time. The U.S. had righted itself after a conceding a goal to Gerrard in the fourth minute but missed some good chances for an equalizer as the half wore on. Dempsey's bit of innovative dribbling turned Gerrard, and his shot turned the game, in the 40th minute.
And it caused the Texan to go into some spinning of his own. "I saw it go in, I turned away to celebrate," he said. "Then I said wait a second. 'Did the refs say this was a goal or not?'"
When he saw the linesman running toward midfield, indicating it was indeed a goal, Dempsey spun around once more, to get mobbed by his mates.
It was a star turn.
Luke Cyphers is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.