But the further you look into it, the less impressive that becomes.
The Italians were without talented strikers Mario Balotelli (being an asshole), Antonio Cassano (injury) and Giuseppe Rossi (burning an American flag). And though they’ve looked much better lately than the squad that flamed out at the 2010 World Cup, they really aren’t all that great.
It was also a friendly with nothing on the line. And the 1924 stat is less wowing when you consider Italy has only played there four times in the past six years. The others:
- 3-0 against Serbia in 2010
- 1-1 against Switzerland in 2010
- 2-0 against Georgia in 2007 (and Knowshon Moreno was out with a pulled hamstring)
I’m done raining on the parade yet.
Italy dominated, out-shooting the US 19-4 (7-2 for shots on goal), holding 61% of possession and winning eight corners to the USA’s two. They created dangerous chances throughout, and had it not been for the Azzurri’s reluctance to remain onside (the flag went up nine times) and lack of sharp finishing — not to mention US goalie Tim Howard balling out as usual — the match could have easily been 3-1.
Obviously, that’s just how soccer goes. The team that controls the match doesn’t always win.
A few weeks ago, I covered a major upset in the high school state playoffs. This nerd school (sorry, Stanton grads) basically had its players curl up in the fetal position in front of the goal for the whole game, then capitalize on a few freakish opportunities on offense to take down a state powerhouse (way to go, Nease).
This isn’t to say that our boys sucked today. Howard looked great, the defense did well to keep Italy scoreless, and the lone goal was an example of two key players performing their roles perfectly.
In the 55th minute, Jozy Altidore shielded a defender away from a cross that came to him inside the penalty area, gently brought the cross down with his left foot, and slid the ball to Clint Dempsey, who continued his recent run of badassery by slipping a shot through traffic and past the keeper.
That was exactly the type of play you want to see from Altidore — behaving like the target forward he’s often shied away from being — and Dempsey, who has to be the team’s most reliable finisher.
But all in all, it’s hard to say the US really deserved to win, and while it was notable by virtue of being the first-ever win against the Italians, it was hardly the kind of performance worthy of being called “historic.”
It wasn’t the dominant effort you’d want to see. In fact, it was more flukey than graceful. The win serves as nothing more than a good confidence-builder for Jurgen Klinsmann and his boys.
And that says a lot about this US team. We’ve reached the point where not only is a semi-lucky win against Italy possible, it isn’t earth-shattering. It’s like fans of a college football team realizing they probably don’t need to rush the field anymore. We all recognize that American soccer is capable of beating world powers, whether its Spain in an actual competition, or Italy in a friendly.
Sure, handing Mario and Luigi a Koopa Troopa to the face would have been nice, but the fact that the US can play subpar soccer and win in Italy without causing pandemonium says more about the state of American soccer than the headlines from this match will.