Clint Dempsey scored early in the second half to provide the U.S. Men’s National Team a historic 1-0 victory against Italy at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa on Wednesday.
The victory against the four-time FIFA World Cup champion was the first in U.S. history, breaking a previous 10-game losing streak against Italy that dated back to 1934.
“We are really pleased with the game and with the result,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “If you beat Italy on its own soil, then that means a lot. For us, the goal was to come here to learn. The challenge that this game gave us, especially on the tactical side – to read the game ahead, to think one step ahead – for our players, it was big. It was a big step for them to be constantly on high alert for 90 minutes.”
The buildup for Dempsey’s game-winning goal came from the left side as Fabian Johnson crossed the ball to Jozy Altidore. With his back turned to the goal against Italy’s Andrea Barzagli, Altidore touched the ball back toward the top of the box where Dempsey ripped a right-footed strike splitting a pair of Italian defenders and into the lower left side of the net. The Italians were coming off a European Championship qualifying campaign in which they had not surrendered a single goal at home.
Dempsey surpassed Joe-Max Moore for fourth all-time on the U.S. scoring list with his 25th career goal. He is the fourth U.S. player to score a goal against Italy, as one of the USA’s previous tallies was the result of an own goal in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The goal was also the first in the run of play against Italy since John Harkes tallied in a 1-1 draw on June 6, 1992.
Backstopped by Tim Howard, the U.S. defense showed resolve throughout the night. The back four stood strong while midfielders Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu were a constant menace to the Italian attackers.
The U.S. has collected three straight shutout victories to open the 2012 campaign, and extended its winning streak to four, dating back to last November’s 3-2 victory against Slovenia. Italy had carried a 7-0-3 record against the USA since the two sides debuted against each other in the second-ever World Cup on May 27, 1934. Italy had also never lost in 20 matches against all opponents at Stadio Luigi Ferraris until the United States broke that streak.
The match started off with Italy controlling play with short, crisp passing combinations. About six minutes into the game, Italy’s Alessandro Matri had the match’s first shot on goal, forcing U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard to make his most difficult save of the night to keep the score level.
Italy’s Sebastian Giovinco was a threat to the USA defense throughout much of the first half. In the ninth minute, Giovinco had an opportunity at the top of the box with Howard rushing up to deflect the ball back off of Giovinco for a goal kick. In the 19th minute, Giovinco got behind the U.S. defense and attacked toward the near left post with his shot. Howard rose up to make the save.
The USA put two shots on goal during the match, and the team’s best scoring opportunity of the first half came in the 38th minute when Dempsey’s free kick went to the right of Italy’s five-man wall and split teammates Brek Shea and Altidore, but Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was directly in the path of the strike and punched clear.
After Dempsey scored in the second half, Italy stepped up its offensive attack in an effort to erase the rare deficit. In the 63rd minute, Italy second-half sub Fabio Borini in his senior team debut took a left-footed shot and Howard went slightly to his right to make the key save.
From the 78th through 81st minute, Italy lurked around the net. U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra, making his 101st appearance, had a clutch interception of the ball as Italy’s Gianpaolo Pazzini was in the goal box hoping Ignazio Abate’s cross from the right would make it through to him. Then about 30 seconds later, U.S. defender Jonathan Spector came up with another important block, a feat he duplicated against a Fabian Borini attempt in the 81st minute.
Adding to Italy’s frustration was a flurry of offside calls throughout the match. Italy was ruled offside nine times and at key junctures of the game.
U.S. forward Terrence Boyd, who plays for top German club Borussia Dortmund, made his National Team debut when he entered for Altidore in the 79th minute. Boyd originally was named to the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team as it was preparing for Wednesday night’s match against Mexico’s U-23s, a 2-0 win for Caleb Porter’s side.
The U.S. hosts its next two matches, taking on Scotland on May 26 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network), followed by a May 30 match against Brazil at FedExField in Landover, Md. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3 and Univision).
— U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report —
Match: USA vs. Italy
Date: Feb. 29, 2012
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Stadio Luigi Ferraris – Genoa, Italy
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. ET
Weather: 48 degrees, fog
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
Italy 0 0 0
USA 0 1 1
USA – Clint Dempsey (Jozy Altidore) 55th minute
USA : 1-Tim Howard; 2-Steve Cherundolo, 4-Clarence Goodson, 5-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 3-Fabian Johnson (13-Jonathan Spector, 77); 6-Michael Bradley, 8-Maurice Edu; 7-Danny Williams,10-Clint Dempsey (17-Edson Buddle, 90), 11-Brek Shea (16-Sacha Kljestan, 73); 9-Jozy Altidore (18-Terrence Boyd, 79)
Subs not used: 12-Nick Rimando, 14-Michael Parkhurst, 15-Geoff Cameron
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
ITA : 1-Gianluigi Buffon (capt.); 2-Christian Maggio (5-Daniel De Rossi, 71), 15-Andrea Barzagli, 20-Angelo Obinze Ogbonna, 4-Domenico Criscito (3-Giorgio Chiellini, 46); 13-Thiago Motta (7-Gianpaolo Pazzini, 59), 21-Andrea Pirlo, 8-Claudio Marchisio (11-Ignazio Abate, 71), 23-Antonio Nocerino (18-Riccardo Montolivo, 46); 9-Alessandro Matri (22-Fabio Borini, 59), 10-Sebastian Giovinco
Subs not used: 6-Federico Balzaretti, 14-Davide Astori, 16-Salvatore Sirigu, 17-Emiliano Viviano, 19-Leonardo Bonucci, 24-Morgan De Sanctis
Head coach: Cesare Prandelli
Stats Summary: USA / ITA
Shots: 4 / 19
Shots on Goal: 2 / 7
Saves: 7 / 1
Corner Kicks: 2 / 8
Fouls: 15 / 11
Offside: 0 / 9
ITA – Giorgio Chiellini 67th minute
USA – Carlos Bocanegra 68th minute
Referee: Firat Aydinus (TUR)
Assistant Referee 1: Serkan Ok (TUR)
Assistant Referee 2: Aleks Tascioglu (TUR)
Fourth Official: Andrea De Marco (ITA)
Man of the Match: Clint Dempsey