BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Italy vs United States
Friendly - Wednesday February 29, 2012
Stadio Luigi Ferraris
The United States national team pulled off a stunning upset Wednesday night in Genoa as a Clint Dempsey second half goal proved all the Americans need to defeat four-time World Cup champions. Italy.
The US team is coming off a difficult week where five key players all suffered injuries that prevented them from joining the team. Oguchi Onyewu, Jermaine Jones, Jose Torres, Timothy Chandler, and Landon Donovan all were part of the wave of injuries and were forced to miss the match.
Instead, the United States started the game with a backline of Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, and Fabian Johnson who was making his first international start at that position.
In the midfield Klinsmann went with Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu playing behind Brek Shea, Clint Dempsey, and Danny Williams. Alone up top was Jozy Altidore.
The defense was put to the test quickly when a pass found Thiago Motta alone in the box but Howard was able to muster a kick save on Motta's hard driving shot.
As the half moved forward, the Italians would continue to pressure the American defense but the US were still able to manage opportunities.
In the 25th minute following a foul on Altidore 23 yards out, Clint Demspey sent in a hard free kick that was saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
The Italian team's offense was generated through Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo who attempted to find his forwards in dangerous positions. The US team's backline was organized and that was a leading reason why the Italians were called for offsides nine times.
"I think we were in a good shape defensively," Klinsmann said afterward. "[Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, and Steve Cherundolo] have a lot of experience. Fabian [Johnson] is another big talent that is growing with every game. I was not worried about that. I was worried about how we could stop those balls from Pirlo all the time. They did well."
In the 55th minute, the US stunned the Italian crowd at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on a play that began with Michael Bradley finding Fabian Johnson who was making a move up the left side. Johnson swung in a cross that found Altidore in the box 12 yards from goal. Altidore laid off a nice short pass for Dempsey who hit a low show past Buffon to give the US a 1-0 lead.
"It was a good chip [from Johnson] into Jozy [Altidore]," Dempsey said of the play. "He brought the ball down well. I was going to stay where I was and try to get a shot off. But I was being covered so I moved right to get into an area where I could get a shot on goal. When he played the ball, I just tried to get a good first touch and hit it hard and low."
For the remainder of the second half, the US team would continue to absorb increased Italian pressure.
Jonathan Spector entered the game for Fabian Johnson at left back in the 76th minute and the Birmingham City defender made several nice desperation plays that broke up Italian shots on goal.
In the 85th minute, Bocanegra made perhaps the defensive play of the game when he slid in and broke up an Ignazio Abate cross just a few feet away from the goal.
"I think we kept our discipline very well tonight," Bocanegra said. "I think the midfielders and the forwards defended. Our shape was really good tonight. There was a lot of teamwork and everybody fought for each other. You saw a lot of guys blocking shots."
When the final whistle sounded, the Americans celebrated. While it was just a friendly, the game was historic in that it gave them the first ever win over Italy.
"It's was awesome," Howard said. "We felt good. We felt confident. It was a strange game. They had a lot of the ball but you're going to get that away from home against a top quality side. But it's big for us. I know it's only a friendly but it was historic for our first win ever."
Next up for the US team will be a trio of friendlies beginning on May 26 against Scotland. Four days later the US team will face Brazil and then on June 3 they will visit Canada in Toronto. That will set the stage for the opening game of their World Cup qualifying against Antigua and Barbuda on June 8.
For Dempsey a win against Italy on the road is a perfect way to head into their first major games under Klinsmann.
"It's always good to get a result against a team like this away from home," Dempsey said. "It helps with our confidence going into the World Cup qualifying campaign. We want to hit the ground running."
Entering into this game, the US had never beaten Italy in 11 previous games and Bocanegra was on the team the last two times.
"I feel like we've been short changed the last few times we've played them," Bocanegra concluded. "We had a red card in the [2009 Confederations Cup] and two red cards in the [2006 World Cup]. It feels really good."
For Klinsmann however, he was satisfied with the performance because he sees the team coming together.
"We are really pleased with the game," Klinsmann concluded. "If you beat Italy on their own soil, it means a lot. Our goal was to come here and learn. For our players this was big. It was a big step for them. I think they've done an awesome job today."