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."
Thursday March 1, 2012 11:50 am
Chad- I agree, but it was boyd's first time out there. I attribute the weak counter attack to him not knowing what to do, since Klinnsmann clearly told all the subs to do nothing but defend every italian you see within 25 yards of our goal.

Casey- Altidore had a game of two halves. He's certainly becoming a better player since joining AZ, though the one down side of european play is that he goes down now looking for a foul much easier than he should. Jozy isn't small. I feel like Jurgen told him at halftime to quit doing that and do what you do best- hold it up, muscle them down. And that's what he did.

My only concern is what to do with Danny Williams. He wasn't particularly effective offensively. Wished Jermaine Jones could have played instead. Also- Bradley is BACK. He was fantastic
Thursday March 1, 2012 11:43 am

Bob Bradley did not invent what you refer to as "bunkering". Many teams play that way when it is necessary. And it was necessary last night.

The US played an intelligent game. They put Williams in to prevent Italy from overrunning the midfield and to provide the US defense with some kind of outlet when under pressure.

JK was missing one of his two best attacking players of all time and two of his best defenders and, in Jones, a potential starter.

Only a fool would go to the home of one of the best teams in the world with such a depleted lineup and decide to go down with all guns blazing.
Had the US been only a little bit less disciplined they could have lost 4-0.
But it seems JK has programmed these guys well.

JK is no fool.
Thursday March 1, 2012 10:46 am
Chad - Perfectly put I felt the same way, after our 2nd half goal we bunkered. I thought there were actually opportunities for us to go forward that we were not willing to take. Instead we held the ball up, that has to change for us in the long run to be successful, but a good win for the US.
Thursday March 1, 2012 7:56 am
Great result.

Downside - After some decent possession in the first, we got got a counter-attack goal and bunkered. It felt like watching a Bob Bradley coached team. So again, great ONE-TIME result, and that mentality will probably get us through to the group stage in Brazil. That bunker mentality will NEVER get us the big prize. We won't be able to rely on bunkering down for 30 minutes all throughout the elimination stage of the WC, eventually we will get beat.
Thursday March 1, 2012 6:50 am
I have had it with altidore.... Except for the layoff he had to dempsey, jozy was weak on the ball, his touch was off, he never runs at or challenges defenders and if you blow on him he falls over. Oh ya he is lazy too... we are in serious need of a forward that can produce....
Thursday March 1, 2012 6:45 am
Great Game!
Always in trouble, but never gave up that goal!
Lalas is too full of himself.
Ed C.
Thursday March 1, 2012 5:29 am
Not the prettiest game but the result is what matters! I only complaint is Shea. In the last few games that I have watched him play for the USA, he has constantly given the ball away, so it was NOT the case of having A bad game. Leave the kid with the U23s for a year or two and then perhaps let him join the senior team again.

Thursday March 1, 2012 1:45 am
Great game and the team keeps getting better. I'd still like to see Lichaj get a shot at a spot.
Thursday March 1, 2012 1:39 am
Can someone tell Alexi Lalas to go suck a big one now?
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