It took 11 matches and 78 years, but for at least one day, the United States is on top of Italy in football. For the first time ever, the United States defeated Italy, earning a stunning 1-0 result overseas. Clint Dempsey netted the only goal of the match in the 55th minute – the 25th of his international career.
The Yanks controlled the tempo for much of the first half. Possession was critical as the Americans showed an impressive string of short passes on the wings and dictated the pace of the half. Italy did have several quality counter-attacks but fired a few shots directly into American keeper Tim Howard and were offside on several occasions. A foul drawn by United States striker Jozy Altidore gave the Americans a free kick just outside the penalty area. Dempsey’s strike was driven right at the Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon, who appeared to be fooled but was able to get a fist on the ball to deflect it away from the net.
After halftime, the game opened up and both teams began to find more space. In the 55th minute, United States midfielder Michael Bradley started an attack by finding left back Fabian Johnson down the wing. Johnson sent a ball into the middle for Altidore, who settled it and with one touch left the ball at the top of the box for Dempsey. Dempsey’s low strike went across the flow of the defense, between the legs of an Italian defender, and nestled into the left corner of the net to put the Americans up 1-0.
The goal really opened the game up for what appeared to be a lackadaisical Italian side. The Americans struggled to possess the ball and Italy peppered the American defense with a series of runs, crosses and shots. The United States bent, but did not break as Howard came up with several key saves and late substitute Jonathan Spector blocked multiple shots en route to the victory.
Several Americans impressed in the win – most notably Johnson. The youngster made his third cap for the United States senior squad, and had a great performance at a position that has been troublesome for the Yanks. He pushed forward several times and added another dimension to the American attack, playing a great ball into Altidore on the only goal of the game.
Michael Bradley also was also solid, holding the midfield and controlling the tempo for a United States team that has trouble maintaining possession at times. It is clear that his play in Serie A is helping him become a more consistent player, as he becomes a key cog in the center of the Yanks’ midfield.
Danny Williams, playing on the right side, gave the United States a lot of energy and was very active all over the field. Williams made just his fifth cap for the national squad and continues to earn playing time as the Americans look to get younger and more athletic.
Finally, Jozy Altidore’s second half was one of the best halves of international competition that he has played in a while. He asserted himself, held and distributed the ball well, and did an excellent job of controlling the cross from Johnson and passing to Dempsey for the game-winner.
There are still questions to be answered for Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States before World Cup Qualifying begins this summer but a win at Italy, especially without Landon Donovan available, is one of the most impressive results the Yanks have ever recorded. The win should give the Americans a confidence boost and more trust in Klinsmann as we are just a few months away from the next World Cup cycle. It is also another step in the right direction to earning respect from European football fans as the United States has posted wins over Sweden, Spain, and Italy since 2009.
This is Brett Brecheisen’s 17th post on WeFollowFutbol. Check out his full list of works here.