Italy vs USA

Almost DeMarcus, Almost

Seeing that Saturday’s Italy vs USA match was the most important soccer game in American in 12 years, and you could argue, ever, VFLOAB was there to capture the events of the game. Here’s what transpired.

2:20pm – Welcome! We’re about 40 minutes from kickoff and I’m a nervous Nelly. I have nothing to add right now.

2:24pm – ABC7 is showing “Re/Max” right now, which apparently is a discussion about the schools in Washington, DC “east of the river”. The river being the Ancostia River, which has more in common with the slums of Lima or Rio than say, Virginia or Maryland.

2:29pm – After Ghana’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic the US chance look much better than they did two hours ago. Of course if the US does anything with this remains to be seen.

3:31pm – Naturally, ABC opens with U2’s “Vertigo”.

3:35pm – Just shot this off to the Guardian: “Naturally, ABC's opening song for the pre-game show is U2's "Vertigo". I think that was for millions of Irish-Americans who are feeling left out since the US is playing Italy and every Italian-American has had to make a huge decision on who to root for today.”
Not by best I know, but all I could really think off.

2:36pm – ABC is showing pictures of American fans who happen to be female jumping up and down and being attractive… the Cub effect is in full force!

2:38pm – Oh no… Landon Donovan is starting at striker… I am not happy about this. Donovan played like crap against the Czechs but Beasley was the scapegoat because he’s black… okay maybe not because he’s black… but Donovan got off easy compared to Beasley if you ask me. Only changes are Bocanegra starting at left back over Eddie Lewis (and let’s face it, it’s not like Bocanegra could be worse). Clint Dempsey is starting in replace of Beasley… not a bad move if you ask me. Mastroeni still in the starting line up over O’Brien. I can’t believe Eddie Johnson isn’t playing… you’d figure his pace would be worth something.

2:43pm – I think ABC put Brent Musburger in charge of studio duties just to make me happy. You forget how great it is to hear Brent’s voice on a Saturday. I just got really excited about college football. On WISCONSIN!

2:47pm – Making sure any conflicted green, white, and red tattoo wearing, Italian flag decal on the car bumper Italian-American is unsure on who to root for, ABC keeps playing the Hendrix “Star Spangle Banner”.

2:50pm – The Guardian just asked for some original humor since they don’t want to knock the American commentators again… so I shot off another e-mail (btw, this will be my last one): “My mother in Chicago just called me to say that she's finally been convinced to the root for the US. I asked why she was going to root for Italy, she said it was because "Americans can't win *everything*!" I quickly reminded her the Argentina won the gold medal in basketball, Sweden won the gold and World Championships in hockey this year, and that Japan won the World Baseball Classic. But if nothing else, it does show that us Americans don't want to take over *everything*!” [Read the Guardian’s Minute-by-Minute report of the game here]

2:54pm – As the players stand and come out of the tunnel, my heart is pounding… it’s like the White Sox are in the World Series all over again.

2:55pm – The Italian national anthem… most of the players are singing… this is crap to be honest… ahhh! Turn the head! A man in just a Speedo is singing the Italian national anthem… to be honest, it sounds a bit fascist.

2:56pm – Now this is a national anthem, say what you will about the “Star Spangled Banner” and I have, but it’s got drums and symbol crashes which every anthem needs… I think there are a shit load of US military personal since it sounds like this is a pro-American crowd… I like being American at the moment… don’t remind yourself Bush is president Bobby! Too late… but from the sound of things, this sounds like a big time pro-American crowd just going by the national anthems.

3:00pm – And we’re off! US is in white and the Italians are in blue… I think I’m right about this being a pro-American crowd because a lot of boos were heard when Pope was called for a foul.

2min – Perrotta crosses into Toni in the US box, but two US defenders are there and Toni can’t do anything with it.

3min – Free kick for Italy, nothing comes of it, US tries to release Convey, but nothing happening. BTW, if I say ‘Italy’ or ‘US’ without saying who the person was to do something, that’s because I’m sort of at the mercy of Dave O’Brien who may be the worst announcer ever. And that’s saying something with Joe Buck alive and well.

5min – Totti turns it over and takes out… fucking tell me who it was O’Brien!... and gets a yellow card. It was Dempsey according to the replay. Not a bad start here for the US. And yes, this stadium is probably 60% filled with Americans or so it seems.

7min – Donovan is doing something! He jumped for two bouncing balls and puts some pressure on the Italian back line.

8min – Cross into the box for Donovan… nothing happening. Goal kick for Italy. I can’t tell you how much better the US looks.

9min – Onyewu is called for his third foul, he likes to use his hands… I heard Marck Cuban wants to sign him to play down low against the Heat just so six more phantom calls can be made on the Mavericks.

10min – Crossed into the US box, Convey can’t quite get it, it bounces, but no US player is around and Italy clears. The Italian midfield looks rubbish.

12min – Gooch plays Toni physically and takes the ball away! That’s the way to do it! I love, play ‘em hard!

13min – Bad call on Cherundolo who out worked Zambrotta to take the ball away, but the ref gives Italy a fee kick from a dangerous position. Totti serves it up, but the entire Italian team is offside.

14min – Some Italian takes Convey out right on the edge of the box… free kick for the US. Marcello Balboa just now mentions how the US Midfield is out playing the Italians.

15min – The free kick does right into the wall for a corner… nothing comes of it.

16min – Dempsey gets the ball, does three or four step over, crosses, goes through, Convey gets the ball wide open from about 12 yards out on the left and puts it over the bar! What a chance, Convey should have gotten that on net, if not scored. Dempsey looks great at the moment.

18mins – After not much happens, it seems like the Italians are playing a 8-2 with no midfield, Dempsey gets it one the edge of the box on the right, turns and puts it just wide. Another nice chance for the US.

20min – The US is mixing things up with long balls to a sprinting Donovan or Convey to wear out the Italian D or making some quick passes and letting Dempsey create. They’re outplaying the Italians.

21min – A long ball is played to Gilardino, and Pope takes down Gilardino who seems to have been pulling Pope down too. The crowd is chanting ‘bullshit’.

22min – Goal for Italy. Totti sells the ref on a free kick, Pirlo takes it, and an unmarked Gilardino heads it home. 1-0 Italy. Not sure who didn’t mark Gilardino, but it was either Pope or Renya. This is not good.

26min – This game has slowed down. Italy might switch to a 9-1 pretty soon. Only way the US gets back into this is if Donovan decides to show up.

27min – OWN GOAL!!!! 1-1 US! Zaccardo tried to clear the cross, but it ends up in the net! I’m calling the ex-roomie! Karma baby! Karma!

28min – RED CARD FOR ITALY!!! Fuck you, Italy! De Rossi is sent off for trying to decapitate McBride. Just and ugly, ugly elbow that leaves McBride a bloody mess. Just absolute bullshit and dirty play and De Rossi show be charged for what he just did. Good news is that Italy is down to 10 men for the rest of the game. Between Ghana’s win and now what’s starting to take place here in this game, the World Cup, which had been to form before today, is starting to go nuts.

33min – Okay, Toni had a great chance a few minutes ago but his ball goes though the six-yard box. Dempsey is all over the place and leading this US attack. He’s having a great game so far. US dominating this game and Italy looks like a mess.

35min – As the game slows down as everyone tries to figure out what to do… oh wait! Totti is coming off and Gattuso comes on. Totti hadn’t done much. I have no clue what’s going on with that move though. I’m sure both teams are going to take it easy, go to the half, and figure out what to do.

39min – I have nothing to add to be honest. I guess the refs called offside against Italy when they shouldn’t have, but I don’t know… Dempsey finds Donovan with a bit of space, but Landon, be classic Landon in a big game, has a brutal first touch and gives it up to Italy. Not saying Eddie Johnson would have scored but…

40min – Italy is playing better, the red card woke them up… the US is playing the offside trap far too often.

42min – Dave O’Brien says the US got a bit lucky… go die Dave. Just go announce Tampa Bay Devil Ray games… Mastroeni, who’s done very little again, winds up from about 35 yards out and puts it just over the bar. So Close!

43min – Donovan sighting! He makes a nice flick to Renya who launches one, but it’s blocked by Nesta for a corner. Nothing comes of it because the US might be the worst set piece team in the World Cup.

45min – RED CARD USA!!! Mastroeni goes in late, but nothing vicious… and gets a red card. Easy the worst call of the World Cup thus far. Mastroeni didn’t even go in that hard or high. Just absolute rubbish… and I bet the fix is in.

HALFTIME: Well the fix is in… fuck this shit… if it wasn’t for these fantastic Jose+10 commercials, I might very well go watch baseball. Utter rubbish red card on Mastroeni. The fix is in.

Thoughts… Mastroeni’s bullshit red card changes things a bit and puts a damper on a very entertaining 45 minutes. The US looks like the better team, but they can’t defend set pieces and that’s how Italy scored. The own goal was pretty funny if you ask me, an Earl Hickey karma moment. De Rossi tried to take McBride’s head off, and saw red for it, and rightly so. Meanwhile, Mastroeni at worst should have picked up a yellow, instead the ref blows the call and gives Italy hope. So we’re going to be playing 10 on 10 for 45 minutes. This should be fun! I have NO CLUE what’s going to happen in the second half. The US could win… the US could draw… Italy could get a cheap goal… I’m sure they’d love to have Totti back on the field… that’s the plus for the US. Oh yeah, Donovan better show up for the second half… he’s been unheard of for the most part. If he really is our best player… God help us.

47min – RED CARD USA; It’s official… the fix is in. Eddie Pope is given a red card… it’s 10-9 and this is an absolute joke. Pope even got the ball… this ref may not make it out alive. He’s ruining this game.

49min – If nothing else, we’re playing the Italians physically and they can’t take it. Another injured Italian player, Cannavaro this time and he goes off on a stretcher.

50min – Jesus in the house! Cannavaro is taken off as I said, and within seconds of getting off the field, he’s healed! Why can’t they give Red Cards for stuff like that.

52min – Conrad comes on for Convey who looked half way decent today. Off the set piece, Itlay crosses in, the US can’t defend set pieces, and in an attempt to clear send the ball off the cross bar. Well at least we know what to work on for the 2010World Cup… set pieces!

54min – Toni’s been called offside about ten times in the last three minutes. Dempsey is clearly pushed off the ball, but no card is given. Justice apparently isn’t an Italian work. Del Piero comes on. I really don’t care any more.

57min – I’m just waiting for the Italian goal… they’re taking control of this game. Dempsey is the only US player doing anything going forward. The US should bring on Beasley since there is a ton of space in this game and DeMarcus can fly…

58min – Renya wins a ball, takes it forward, and takes a shot from 25 yards, it’s badly wide… I’m assuming it was a shot. It could have been a pass to Donovan who, for reasons unknown, pulled up.

59min – The ball bounces around the US box, Renya finally clears it, Donovan gets it and instead of using his speed, he tries to cross the ball across to Dempsey who can’t get to it.

60min – Looked like a handball in the Italian box… of course no call. I know the US is down a man, but all this open space might favor them. Seriously, bring on Beasley, I forgive him!

61min - Toni off, Iaquinta on… Italy is now out of subs so they can’t pull any more of their “Crying Wolf” Act at least.

62min – Beasley coming on for Dempsey… like the call but not for Dempsey! He’s the only one doing anything besides Renya every once in a while. Take off the rubbish Donovan! Come on Bruce!

63min – And as I knock Donovan, he finally does something… he wins a ball, runs forward leaving much of the Italian blue line in his wake, finds an open McBride who puts it wide. Brutal finish, again should have gotten that on net.

65min – After some lovely, just lovely play from the US, Bocanegra finds Beasley who takes it, steps up, shoots and the BALL GOES IN!!! But it’s called off!!! NO!!!!! McBride was offside… and he didn’t touch the ball, but he was in an offside position and blocking the goalkeeper… it actually was a good call… what a shame. Watch Beasley, he should be playing with a chip on his shoulder. Oh, and if you didn’t feel complete joy when that ball went in the net, I assume you don’t actually feel anything.

66min – Another Italian being taken off on a stretcher… remember the Italians are out of subs, so we might be playing 9 on 9. Not sure… the US it taking over this game a bit.

68min – Zambrotta takes the ball and shoots… JUST WIDE. That was too close.

69min – Italians win a corner, nothing comes of it, and the Italians looking like it’s their turn to do a thing or too.

70min – Zambrotta takes down Cherundolo on the right outside the box, a yellow is given to Zambrotta… a bad yellow at that too.

71min – Donovan sends it in, the US get a head on it, but no where near goal. It’s cleared and this game is up and down and wide open as you’d expect. You wouldn’t think the US was down a man either.

73min – I can breath… a nice chip from Pirlo sends Del Piero in… he gets a foot on it and Keller makes a fantastic save. His rebound is blocked and then Italy finally knock it out for a goal kick.

74min – After some nice work by Donovan, the US pass it a bit outside the box, finally McBride takes a shot, it’s blocked… I doubt this game is ending 1-1, there is so much space and these guys are going to get more and more tired. This favors the US. Watch Beasley, I’m telling you, he looks like a new man out there right now.

77min – The Italians have had it, but done little with it. They look very tired. And the US doesn’t look much better… why hasn’t Arena used his last sub? Renya can barely walk.

79min – Cherundolo, who’s been playing really well, makes a nice move to create space and crosses it in, McBride gets his head on it, but it goes off the defender. Italy comes back, takes a long shot, but a nice save by Keller pushes it aside. Beasley picks it up and takes off, but nice D stops his run with Donovan. Great game if you ask me.

83min – US playing with the ball, but the Italians have seven guys back… This Cherundolo vs Zambrotta battle has been fun the last twenty minutes.

86min – Not much happening, Beasley tried to make a run, the Italians have had it… win a corner but nothing comes of it. Balboa hates Beasley I think.

87min – Nice build up for the Italians, finally after passing it inside the US box and some how not scoring, Gooch sends it out for a corner… he’s had a nice game too. The US looks dead right now. Italy putting on the pressure.

89min – Italy is looking to win this. The US is just about out of gas and playing for the tie. Unless Donovan or Beasley catch the Italians leaning the wrong way… the US isn’t going to win.

91min – Gooch is the only reason why the Italians haven’t scored the last ten minutes. Keller played well too, but Gooch has cleared everything. Great game from him.

93min – Keller grabs a cross and it looks like the US will be happy with the draw. I’ll tell you, the US was robbed of three points today. Beasley tries to create a give and go for himself, but no one from the US wants to help him out. Eventually they do… but the Italians win the ball. The ref blows three peeps, and that’s it. We have a 1-1 draw. The US deserved the win. A shame the ref totally messed this game up.

Well I think we found the Group of Death! It looks like either the Czechs or Italians won’t go though… but where do we begin?!?!?

This game had everything… goals, shots, saves, own goals, nice plays, bad plays, blood, guts, heart, one team giving everything they had (the US) and another playing a bit reserved (the Italians). Final thoughts (48 hours later):

* The US cannot defend set pieces, just complete crap on set pieces. And we aren’t much better taking them. On Italy’s goal, Gilardino had a nice finish, don’t get me wrong, but the US cannot defend them.

* The more I see of that own goal, the more I realize how bad that was… that might be the worst own goal ever… US got lucky there.

* The De Rossi elbow and red card was 100% spot on. Just an ugly play and he should be banned for the rest of the tournament to be frank, three game minimum. Didn’t even try to play the ball, he was looking to take off McBride’s head.

* That red card did completely change the game. Italy took Totti off and they sure could have used him when the US went down to 9 men. That red card had more of an impact than I think we realize.

* The Mastroeni red card, upon reflection, wasn’t as bad as it was at the time. In other words it isn’t on the same level as the Don Denkinger call in 1985 like I thought it was at the time. It was a hard tackle with his cleats up, but no way was he trying to hurt anyone. Unbelievable that he was sent off for that, give him a yellow and keep playing. But, Mastroeni should have known the situation. It’s a 1-1 game and the US is up a man. The ref may be looking for an excuse to even things up a big. This also means we’ll see O’Brien against Ghana, and I’m pumped about that.

* Eddie Pope was having a pretty bad game as it was, so in a way, I’m not sure his red card was actually that bad for the US. Okay it was since they went down to 9 men, but Pope was playing poorly. Questionable second yellow really, but he was playing a little recless. I think Pope not being able to play the next game might be a good thing for the US. Anyway, my guess is that we see Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Conrad?, and Onyewu (how huge is it that he didn’t pick up a yellow, whew!) as the US back line against Ghana.

* The Beasley ‘goal’. Everyone here in the States say that McBride is offside, but the Guardian didn’t think so according to the new rules, so I don’t know.… seems like it could have gone either way. The US didn’t catch a break from the ref all game, you’d almost think he’d give the US this one. But no.

* Why didn't Arena use that last sub?!?!? So frustrating especially when Italy was pounding the US box in the last 10 minutes.

* The best US player in the first half was Dempsey who was just want the doctor ordered. The best US player in the second half… take your pick from Cherundolo, Keller, Donovan (I’ll admit it) and Gooch. I say Gooch because he was basically on his own after Pope was sent off, though Cherundolo had a ton of energy that was needed in the second half. Beasley wasn’t bad and even Donovan did a thing or two in the second half. Dempsey played well enough to start against Ghana… I’d still like to see Eddie Johnson start (I’ve got a sinking feeling that the US wins this game against Italy if Johnson starts over Donovan who did nothing in the first half). Convey keeps his place… I’m thinking Donovan plays midfield with O’Brien, Renya sits. Johnson and McBride up front.

* I think Donovan or Renya has to sit this next game. Donovan has been pretty bad in both games (okay second half today though, but if he's suppose to be your 'key' player, why is it guys like Cherundolo, Dempsey, and Convey the ones carrying the US going forward?) I'm not a big Renya fan.

* What are the US chances? First and foremost they have to win. A win gives them four points… from there they need help. Breaking it down quickly:

-- US win and Italy beats the Czechs… US and Italy move on.

-- Italy and Czech’s draw 1-1… that means the US has to beat Ghana by four goals.

-- Czechs win without Italy scoring… the US has to beat Ghana five goals.

In other words go Italy!

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