Wednesday, June 21, 2006

U.S. vs. Italy Recap

by Mike Hatton, KankaNation FUTBOL! Correspondent

In general, the U.S. looked much better than in their game against the Czech Republic. The attack's were crisper, although the finishing still needs some work. Other than one mental lapse, the defense looked solid, and the midfield controlled posession fairly well. Clint Mathis Dempsey [Mike, I doubt anyone caught this mistake. -ed.] was especially impressive on the right side, and Reyna and Donovan worked well together in the middle.

Why then was the U.S. only able to come away with one point in a 1-1 draw? Look no further than the head referee from Uraguay, who was suspended from the 2002 World Cup do to "inconsistencies."

It was obvious early on that it would be a tightly called game. Italy scored off a free kick when Eddie Pope tried to run a one man offside-trap, letting his man get an easy header past Keller. The U.S. quickly equalized off a free-kick of there own, when the Italian player, trying to clear the ball out for a corner kick, and prevent McBride from having an open net, cleared it into his own net.

Then the cards started coming out. Pope was already carrying a yellow on a ticky-tack foul at this point, when McBride went up for a header, and was elbowed in the face by De Rossi, opening up a cut that required three stitches to close. The red card was well deserved.

Then in the closing minutes of the first half, Pablo Maestroeni came in a little late on a slide tackle, with the ball still on the Italian half. This would normally be a foul at least with maybe a verbal warning, a yellow card at worst. Instead, Pablo was shown a straight red, nullifying the man advantage the American's had.

Minutes into the second half, Pope picked up his second yellow of the match, leading to his ejection, leaving the U.S. to play with 9 men for over 40 minutes.

The remaining 9, bolstered by second half subs Conrad and Beasly, managed to hold off the Italians, and even had a few chances to score the first World Cup goal with only 9 men on the field. If Brian McBride hadn't been offside when Beasly's shot glanced off the Italian keepers hands and into the net.

Some will wonder why McBride, wasn't subbed out for fresh legs in last 10-15. However the best option, Eddie Johnson, who played well against Czech Republic, has limited experience, and maybe wouldn't be the best choice when playing with 9 men.

My only tactical criticism is why wasn't Pope removed at the half. He had already made key mistakes, was carrying a yellow, and would be crucial in the game against Ghana. Now the U.S. is forced to play with a very young back line in a must win tomorrow.

U.S. advancement scenarios:

The U.S. will advance to the second round, likely to play Brazil if...
U.S. win, Italy win
Italy tie up to 2-2, U.S. win by 5+
Italy tie of greater than 2-2, U.S. win by 5+goals more than 2 scored by Czech Republic
Czech Republic win, U.S. win, combined margin of victory 5 or more