Tuesday, June 16, 2009

ATH: US v Italy

USA 1 - Italy 3

After taking the lead a man down in the first half, the United States gave up three second half goals to lose their Confederations Cup Group B opener 3-1 on Tuesday in South Africa. With Carlos Bocanegra out of the lineup due to a hamstring injury, a revamped US defense held off Italy in the early going. A 34th minute red card to Ricardo Clark changed things for the US, but Jozy Altidore was able to get a call in the box and Landon Donovan converted the penalty to make it 1-0 United States at halftime.

Italy coach Marcello Lippi substituted two players in the 57th minute, bringing on Giuseppe Rossi who would have Italy even two minutes later. Daniele De Rossi made it 2-1 in the 72nd and Rossi picked up his second goal and Italy's third in stoppage time.

"Against a team like that, it’s really hard to play against them with 11 men, let alone 10," US defender Jay DeMerit said. "When the midfield opens up and guys get free, it makes it really hard for us to make the right decisions. Credit goes to them for finishing their chances. Now we move forward.”

The United States plays early game winners Brazil on Thursday at 10am live on ESPN2. USSoccerPlayers will have live follow-along coverage of that game starting at 9:45am.

-- GAME REPORT --

Match: United States vs. Italy
Date: June 15, 2009
Competition: 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium; Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. local (2:30 p.m. ET)
Attendance: 34,341
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 65 degrees

Scoring Summary:
1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
ITA 0 3 3

USA – Landon Donovan (penalty kick) 41st minute
ITA – Giuseppe Rossi 58
ITA – Daniele De Rossi (Girogio Chiellini) 72
ITA – Giuseppe Rossi (Andrea Pirlo) 94+

Lineups:
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 21-Jonathan Spector, 5-Oguchi Onyewu, 15-Jay DeMerit, 2-Jonathan Bornstein (16-Sacha Kljestan, 86); 22-Benny Feilhaber (7-DaMarcus Beasley, 72), 13 -Ricardo Clark, 12-Michael Bradley, 8-Clint Dempsey; 10-Landon Donovan, 17-Jozy Altidore (9-Charlie Davies, 66)
Subs not used: 3-Carlos Bocanegra, 4-Conor Casey, 6-Heath Pearce, 11-Marvell Wynne, 14-Danny Califf, 18-Brad Guzan, 19-Freddy Adu, 20-Jose Francisco Torres, 23-Luis Robles
Head Coach: Bob Bradley

ITA: 1-Gianluigi Buffon; 19-Gianluca Zambrotta, 4-Girogio Chiellini, 6-Nicola Legrottaglie, 3-Fabio Grosso; 8-Gennaro Gattuso (17-Giuseppe Rossi, 57), 10-Daniele De Rossi, 21-Andrea Pirlo; 15-Vincenzo Iaquinta, 11-Alberto Gilardino (9-Luca Toni, 69), 16-Mauro Camoranesi (20-Riccardo Montolivo, 57)
Subs not used: 2-Davide Santon, 5-Fabio Cannavaro, 7-Simone Pepe, 12-Morgan De Sanctis, 13-Alessandro Gamberini, 14-Marco Amelia, 18-Angelo Palombo, 22-Andrea Dossena, 23-Fabio Quagliarella
Head Coach: Marcello Lippi

Stats Summary: USA / ITA
Shots: 7 / 21
Shots on Goal: 4 / 13
Saves: 10 / 3
Corner Kicks: 1 / 10
Fouls: 14 / 16
Offside: 1 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
ITA – Nicola Legrottaglie (caution) 11th minute
USA – Jonathan Bornstein (caution) 20
USA – Ricardo Clark (sent off) 33
ITA – Fabian Grosso (caution) 35

Officials:
Referee: Pablo Pozo (CHI)
Assistant Referee 1: Patricio Basualto (CHI)
Assistant Referee 2: Francisco Mondria (CHI)
Fourth Official: Eddy Maillet (SEY)


Early Success Leads To Late Problems


By Clemente Lisi - NEW YORK, NY (Jun 15, 2009) USSoccerPlayers -- It was a tale of two halves for the US in its 3-1 loss to mighty Italy in its Confederations Cup opener on Monday in Pretoria, South Africa.

In the first half, the Americans were a rugged, counterattacking bunch. The players effectively absorbed the pressure. Midfielders Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey gave Italy a tough time, disrupting the Azzurri every chance they got with a combination of finesse and physical play. The USA’s ability to break up plays frustrated the Italians – and it showed.

Even though the US were down a man after Ricardo Clark was red-carded after 33 minutes when he unleashed a late tackle on the feisty Gennaro Gattuso, they took the lead just eight minutes later when Jozy Altidore was tripped up in the box by defender Giorgio Chiellini. Landon Donovan scored on the penalty kick to make it 1-0 against the shell-shocked Italians.

In the second, it was a different story. Bob Bradley’s ten-man version of a 4-4-2 quickly wilted under the pressure. The Italians, as expected, upped the tempo and put in three fresh players to help jump-start the attack.

At that point, Bradley’s plan to bunker down and try to maintain the lead failed. The defense began to slip and the gaps began to turn into Italian chances. Instead of continuing to play like they had in the first half, Bradley decided to solely absorb the pressure and the midfield appeared disjointed and out-matched.

In other words, it didn’t work. With the US players on the field having to cover more space began to show as the players tired. It was Italy who went to the bench.

Following a stagnant start, Italy coach Marcello Lippi went to his bench with two changes in the 58th minute, with Giuseppe Rossi and Riccardo Montolivo coming on in favor of Gattuso and Mauro Camoranesi, respectively.

Rossi equalized two minutes later. He stripped Benny Feilhaber of the ball on the edge of the center circle, dribbled straight toward goal and blasted a laser of a shot that beat Tim Howard at the left post.

In the 72nd minute, with the US struggling to keep up, the Italians took the lead when Danielle De Rossi scored. Once again, it was a shot from outside the box. Again, the US appeared to have a chance to make the stop.

Offensively, the Americans struggled for long periods. Donovan rarely got the ball and Altidore was subbed out in the 66th minute after several physical encounters with the Italy defense. What chances the US did have simply didn't fall.

Defensively, there was little the US could do at the point against Italy's attack. Montolivo alongside strikers Vincenzo Iaquinta and Luca Toni had their problems finishing, but the chances were there. Adding Rossi to the mix, Lippi morphed his team into a 4-2-4 formation in order to get some offense going.

Instead of close quarters attacking and multiple looks, it lead to two long shots for goals. What if that red card hadn't happened? What if both squads had been first choice? What if the officiating had been a little more consistent? What happened was Italy taking all three points.

For the US, the game wasn’t so much its Confederations Cup opener, but the continuation of a month-long marathon that included two pressure-packed World Cup Qualifiers and next month’s Gold Cup.

During the first half, the US put together a great showing – its best since playing Argentina to a scoreless draw last year. Play the same way against Brazil and Egypt and the Americans may even be able to earn points and some respect. Play like they did in the second half, and things are only going to get tougher for the States.


Monday's Daily: Both Directions

With J Hutcherson -- Whether or not you want to sign onto the idea that Italy's Guiseppe Rossi is somehow living "the American dream," what yesterday's game means for Italy might be equally complicated. Rossi was the hero for a squad that didn't have enough answers against the United States at any stage of the game. At least not enough for a team of Italy's caliber.

There's the old gridiron saying that the running game develops the passing game and vice-versa. Become too one-dimensional in either direction and the defense begins to key in on your weaknesses. What looks like a strength can quickly become a disadvantage. I could throw in a few more of those poster statements, but I'm going to assume you get the idea.

Italy relied too strongly on the passing game, and Oguchi Onyewu and Jonathan Spector in particular punished them for it multiple times. The Italian attack seemed hampered when it came to dribbling the ball into the US box and developing close range opportunities.

To put it another way, they were incapable of doing what leads to most of the goals in big time soccer. Instead, it was variations on long balls, lofted entry passes, and botched set pieces.

What should have been one of the World's most threatening attacks seemed to be misfiring from multiple angles. The lauded bench strength got them goals, but it also added another big name to the list of players not finishing chances right in front of goal.

For Italy, the thirty-yard screamer is something to do in spite of tactics, not as the primary offensive weapon. It's supposed to loosen up the defense, put them off their balance, and eventually lead to better things. As a point, it usually shows what's going to be exploited by the next team in the next game.

Italy dominated on corners against a man-down USA using the backline as an extra defender. They didn't take advantage. For half-chances, both teams have film that should call into question why there weren't more goals. The US caught the brunt of hesitant officiating.

Almost every issue that has caused the US coaching staff problems over the recent Qualifiers were in evidence. Rash choices from the players on the field, an inability to finish off real chances, and the same questionable substitutions that didn't exactly help. Yet the US stayed in the game well past Italy's comeback.

End result might be three points for Italy and probably three more on their way to face Brazil, but it's also enough issues to explain the World Champion's slide down the FIFA Rankings from the top slot. What we saw on Monday was as much about the United States failing to take advantage as it was Italy. In and of itself, a statement game.
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