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A moral tie

I'm not one for moral victories but I sure am into moral ties.

Don't get me wrong -- it wasn't a win, just a tie. Never has a single point felt like three points and a win. But it sure does now.

If Argentina had the most impressive performance in the World Cup and the Germans the most exciting and exhilarating, then the U.S. surely had the most gritty, gutsy, and toughest thus far in the 2006 World Cup.

Don't believe me?

Did you see Bruce Arena's unbridled reaction? Did you see his counterpart Marcelo Lippi's laconic stare of disbelief after the final whistle?

One man's team defied the odds playing with nine men against a team they'd never beaten. The other left to rue a missed opportunity and an assured spot in the "business end of the tournament."

You can hardly blame Lippi and the unknowing Italians for their disbelief. After all, they admitted candidly before the match they knew very little about the Americans. But now they know all about the Red, White, and Blue and the Stars and Stripes that were flying high in Kaiserslautern.

The way the U.S. played against the Czech Republic five days earlier, no one saw this inspirational result coming, except the 23 players representing the U.S. in Germany who without a doubt, pulled off one of the top five results in U.S. soccer history.

That was the U.S. team we've all come to respect. That was more like it.

If this was England and the Three Lions pulled off such a heroic result, it would've been immediately etched in stone lore for every England manager for the next 2000 years to use as inspiration.

If the U.S. can bottle up the passion, commitment and emotion they put on display against Italy and drink it before the Ghana match, then this result is better than a win. It is the formula for another deep World Cup run and the continuing advancement of U.S soccer.

We now have the two greatest words in sports ... Game 7! Or something like it.

It's win or go home and the U.S team couldn't be happier.

Yes, the U.S. doesn't control their own destiny and need Italy to put a suddenly struggling Czech Republic side out of their misery. But, the U.S. didn't control its fate in 2002 and that didn't stop them back then. And after today it doesn't seem it will stop them now.

The sound you heard on Saturday was the U.S. putting the wheels that fell off the bus against the Czechs back on the bandwagon, and rolling once again confidently down the street. Plenty of seats are still available, enough for an entire nation.

If the U.S. pulls off "The Miracle on Grass" and gets out of the toughest group in the 2006 World Cup, this could very well be the tipping point U.S. soccer has been waiting so long for.

So to all the people out there -- the ones who are claiming they don't like soccer but helped produce the biggest soccer ratings ever and to also the diehard U.S. fans -- are you ready to be tipped?

Allen Hopkins covers the FIFA World Cup for ESPN and ESPN.com and is also an analyst for the Los Angeles Galaxy. He can be reached at hopkinsplus10@gmail.com or allen.x.hopkins@espn.com.