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History Lesson: USA's 2009 Confederations Cup

By Thetoaststaff
History Lesson: USA's 2009 Confederations Cup
By: Brandon Whitfield
On Saturday, USA drew Argentina 1-1 at the New Meadowlands Stadium.  In the first half, Argentina played ridiculously well and USA never really got a sniff of the ball.  The second half the US played much better and got the goal they needed to secure the draw.  While we did not get the win, the match reminded me of one of the US Men’s National team’s most famous wins, the 2-0 victory over Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup.  Against both Spain and Argentina, USA was dominated in terms of shots and possession.  In both matches, Tim Howard was absolutely spectacular and the Americans had to resort to a lot of emergency defending.  With that, let’s take a look back at USA’s improbable run to the 2009 Confederations Cup final.
The Confederations Cup is an 8 team tournament held the summer before the World Cup.  The field is made up of the host country, the defending World Cup Champion and the Champions of each of the 6 FIFA Confederations around the World.  USA was joined by Brazil, Italy and Egypt in Group B.  In their first match, the Yanks faced off against the World Cup Champions, Italy.  The Italians caught a break early when Ricardo Clark was sent off with a straight red in the 33rd which I thought was a very harsh call.  In the 40th Jozy received a through ball and was brought down in the box.   Donovan converted the penalty and US went into half up 1 goal on the scoreboard, but down 1 man on the field.  In the 57th minute, Italy brought on American Giuseppe Rossi.  Rossi, born to Italian immigrants in New Jersey, always dreamed of being a part of the Italian National Team.  As soon as he got on the pitch he hit a rocket past Howard for the Italians' first goal of the match.  Italy took control from there and wore down the Americans, who played most of the game a man down.  In the 72nd Daniele De Rossi hit a long shot past Howard and Rossi finished the US off with a goal in the 90th from a nice pass from Andrea Pirlo.  USA played decent but still came up short against Italy and looked like a long shot to qualify for the knockouts at this point.
After being thrashed 3-0 at the hands of the Brazilians, USA was just focused on exiting the tournament with a bang against Egypt.  USA got a scrappy goal from Charlie Davies in the 21st to put the US in control.  While this game was going on, Brazil was destroying Italy 3-0.  If the US could win 3-0 they would miraculously advance on goal differential.  The US got their second in the 63rd thanks to Michael Bradley.  Clint Dempsey finished off the improbable turn of events with a goal in the 71st and the USA advanced, recording only 3 points in the 3 group matches.
The USA’s reward for advancing out of the group stage was a match-up against Spain in the Semifinals.  Spain was on a 35 game unbeaten streak (including 15 straight wins) and was ranked number one in the world.  They were just coming off a 2008 European Championship (and later went on to win the World Cup in 2010).  On this day, however, USA was the bestteam on the pitch.  Jozy started things off in the 27th, shrugging off club teammate Joan Capdevila and firing a shot that ricocheted off of Iker Casillas and into the net.  Spain controlled the possession and the shots for the entire game.  The US was disciplined and stayed compact, which frustrated the more talented Spanish squad.  In the 74th Clint Dempsey finished off Spain with a goal to make it 2-0 to the Americans.  The ball should have been cleared by Sergio Ramos but he just kind of pushed the ball into the path of Dempsey who fired it into the net.  
In the final, the Americans faced off against Brazil.  Brazil beat the US 3-0 in the second group game and probably thought they would easily handle the Americans again.  In the 10th minute, Jonathan Spector sent in a cross that Dempsey redirected in to the far corner of the net.  In the 27th minute, Landon Donovan coolly finished off a two-man counter attack with Charlie Davies to make it 2-0 to the good.  I think the turning point of the match was the Luis Fabiano goal one minute into the second half.  If the Americans could have held out for 20 minutes or so, they would have won the match.  The quick goal energized the Brazilians and they took control and scored 3 goals in the 2nd half to win the trophy.
While the USA came up short in the end, the 2009 Confederations Cup did show that the US Men’s National team can hang with the big boys of Soccer.  I think the improbability of the tournament aided the Americans “never say die” attitude that they brought to South Africa in 2010.  The CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer will be very important as the US will want to return to the Confederations Cup in 2013.

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