In an Ironic twist, the US beat Italy at their own game. The lazy title to this story would be “The Italian Job” but that’s pretty much what transpired in Italy on Wednesday. The Americans soaked up the pressure, fought like lions at the back, and took their one chance thanks to Clint Dempsey.
The US continued to try and implement Jurgen Kilnsmann’s vision of playing high pressure and moving forward in numbers with the ball on the ground. While it was refreshing to see the USA look to attack against a side that two years ago would have had 10-men behind the ball from the off, the USA struggled with balls over the top to Sebastian Giovinco or out wide to Christian Maggio down the right. Throughout the 90 minutes, the spectacular Andrea Pirlo was given way too much space to sit in his usual deep midfield position and ping the ball over the top to the aforementioned players.
Jozy Altidore had a terrible first half, but he really picked it up in the second. On Clint Dempsey’s goal, he showed exactly why he belongs in Klinsi’s 23-man roster. At his best he holds up the ball and distributes it well.
We saw vintage Altidore as he brought down a Fabian Johnson cross and left it for Dempsey’s clinical finish- the Yanks only genuine opportunity of the game.
Check out Clint's goal after the break....
After the goal, the US wilted a bit. As Italy pressed for an equalizer, the Yanks dropped into a defensive shell. Had they been able to play a full 90 minutes of Klinsi’s style, they would have kept the ball and made it a bit easier on themselves. I am not saying they needed to continue to try and attack and look for more goals. There was no way the Italians were going to let them do that, but if they had broken out with a few more players, then they would have held the ball a little bit longer and relieved some of the pressure.
While the final 10 minutes reminded me of the style of play under old regimes, the US showed their character and what helps to make us great as a soccer team and a nation. Our never say die attitude was portrayed by the likes of Spector throwing his body into shots and every US player defending with verve and vigor even though their tanks were on empty.
With that said however, if we could combine our fighting spirit with that ability to go forward in numbers and keep the ball just a little bit better, then the final 15 minutes would have been a little less nerve-racking for US fans.
Nevertheless, a 1-0 victory over Italy and the first triumph over the Azzuri in 82 years of trying is a great accomplishment and one that every fan of US Soccer can take great pride in.
Four victories in a row (albeit three of them 1-0) is a massive confidence boost and building block for this side heading into the friendlies vs. Scotland and Brazil and ultimately World Cup qualifiers which start in June.
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