I hate whining and I hate being a whiny fan so I will keep this relatively short. Chilean referee Pablo Pozo ruined the game by wrongly and needlessly ejecting Ricardo Clark in the 33rd minute for what wasn’t even the hardest tackle in the first half. That honor goes to the Italian who attempted to tackle Landon Donovan from behind and stomped on his foot after Donovan released a pass. According to SI writer Grant Wahl the four players he talked to after the game, two Italians and two Americans including the player who suffered the foul, all agreed Clark did not deserve a red card.
The US valiantly fought on and against all odds took the lead before the half after Jozy Altidore was fouled after running onto a splendid pass from Benny Feilhaber. Donovan buried the penalty and the US looked like it might hold on until American-born and raised Giuseppe Rossi came on in the 57th minute and scored in the 58th. The Americans quickly tired and the Italians smelled blood. Daniel DeRossi’s hopeful shot from 35+ yards found its way into the goal past a shielded Tim Howard. The US pressed forward and had a couple chances to tie, notably a free header by second half substitute Charlie Davies. Pozo could have partially made amends for his travesty of a sending off by bravely calling a second pk, when Donovan was bungled over in the area. It didn’t happen though and Andrea Pirlo undid the Americans on a beautiful counterattack that resutled in Rossi’s second goal deep into stoppage.
What especially burns about this kind of loss is the effort the team put in feels like it was all in vain. Donovan, Michael Bradley, Onyewu, DeMerit, Jonathan Spector and Altidore all played really, really well. Feilhaber, Clint Dempsey and Bornstein were ok. The US deserves better.
I am hoping Bradley shakes up the lineup for Thursday’s match against Brazil for a couple of reasons: 1)to give young players like Freddy Adu, Charlie Davies and Jose Torres an opportunity to shine on a large stage, and 2) so fresher players with more energy can challenge the Brazilians; surely the 10 starters who played the reigning world champions a man down for nearly 2/3 of the match will be tired. For me, it is time to give Freddy Adu a chance in the role Dempsey has been playing. In addition to adding creativity, Adu will improve the service and shooting options on set pieces.
Whatever the lineup if the team matches the effort it put forth yesterday fans should not be disappointed.