US CHOKE AWAY FINAL TO BRAZIL
BRENT LATHAM - Sunday, June 28, 2009
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Luis Fabiano Celebrates
The United States came out blazing Sunday night in the Confederations Cup final in Johannesburg, but could not hold a big halftime lead as Brazil rallied to ruin the Americans' dreams of glory in South Africa.

The teams felt each other out for the first few minutes, as Brazil came forward but the US punched back on the counter with equal determination.

On just such a break, on ten minutes, Jonathan Spector carried the ball forward down his right wing and chipped a ball into the area for Clint Dempsey, who swept a running volley across the box and past goalkeeper Julio Cesar to give the Yanks a quick 1-0 lead.

Brazil looked anxious to get the goal back, and came forward through Robinho, who slammed an angled shot that forced Tim Howard to knock the ball out for a corner.

The US threatened again at the quarter hour when a corner kick produced a melee in front of goal that led to a Dempsey attempt, but the Fulham man found himself in an awkward position and could only kick the ball over the crossbar.

Brazil tried from distance on 22 minutes, when Felipe Melo, the scorer of Brazil's first goal in the first game against the US, struck a shot from about 22 yards right at Howard, who knocked the ball back from where it had come.

Two minutes later Kaka and Maicon teamed up to put the American goal in danger again. Maicon played a wall fro Kaka which the future Real Madrid backheeled into the right back's path. Maicon slammed an angled shot off Howard, but the US goal remained safe.

Twenty seven minutes in the US, which had been looking dangerous on the break through Landon Donovan and Charlie Davies, doubled their lead on an exquisite counterattack conceived by the pair. Donovan fed Davies on the wing, and the Hammarby man laid an exquisite return pass back into the path of the former Bayern Munich attacker. Donovan then chipped the ball over Felipe Melo and struck it past Julio Cesar.

Brazil would not be held back and Andre Santos soon forced Howard into yet another save at the near post with an overlapping run.

The Selecao continued to look dangerous when Robinho shot from range and Howard made his fifth save of the evening. With time running out in the half Maicon sent a dangerous ball across the box but no one could get on the end of it and the Americans would take their 2-0 lead to the locker room.

The second half would be a completely different tale, as the Americans were unable to continue to absorb the Brazilian pressure.

Just 39 seconds into the half, Luis Fabiano took a cross at the top of the box and turned with Jay DeMerit on his back. The Brazilian struck a hopeful shot which slotted past DeMerit and beat Howard to cut into the lead and give Brazil all the momentum they needed.

Fifty eight minutes in Lucio would force Howard into another save with a sharp header. Two minutes late a Kaka header went into the goal, but both the linesman and the referee refused to concede the goal as Howard quickly pushed the ball back out, and the Americans were momentarily safe.

The Americans then came forward to help relieve pressure and Donovan and Dempsey both went close with long range shots.

The game turned for good in the 66th minute when Brazil coach Dunga brought on two substitutes, Elano and Daniel Alves. While the Americans warmed up some subs for ten minutes, the fresh Brazilians came in wave after wave at the American goal.

Ten minutes later, just after Tim Howard had stoned an onrushing Luis Fabiano, and with Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan finally preparing to come on, Brazil tied the game as Luis Fabiano emphatically headed a loose ball into the US net past a helpless Howard.

In the 84th minute Lucio gave the Brazilian yet another title as he outjumped DeMerit and Dempsey on a corner and headed the ball in off the far post to break the Americans' hearts.

The US will now have to wait until at least next year for their first victory in an international tournament. Their second best finish is however, the best showing ever for the United States at a FIFA event.