USA vs. Italy: The 5 Best Players from Today's International Friendly

Christopher HallAnalyst IFebruary 29, 2012

USA vs. Italy: The 5 Best Players from Today's International Friendly

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    You know the result by now.  The U.S. national team took a historic 1-0 victory over Italy, thanks to a 55th minute goal from Clint Dempsey. Italy owned the ball, but the U.S. got the only goal. Isn't that what it's all about when you get right down to it?

    Maybe, maybe not.

    Dempsey got the goal, but who really showed out?  Here are the top 5 players from USA vs. Italy.

No. 5: Jozy Altidore

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    He wasn't a goal scoring threat, but Altidore's ability to hold the ball and wait for support bought the United States its only breathing room on the ball all match long.  His control and lay-off gave Clint Dempsey the chance that proved the difference in the match.

No. 4: Sebastian Giovinco

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    The little Italian forward was not in the good graces of the assistant referees against the United States. That didn't stop him from terrorizing the U.S. back line all game long. An inch here or there and Giovinco puts this game out of reach all by himself inside the first 15 minutes.

    All that danger in a package that barely reaches Brek Shea's waist.

No. 3: Andrea Pirlo

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    Andrea Pirlo sat deep in Italy's midfield and dropped balls in behind the U.S. back four all night long.  Unfortunately for Italian fans, each time he did so, an assistant referee raised a flag in the air.  But the assistant referees were the only people in Genoa who could keep Pirlo's dangerous distribution in check. The space he was allowed by the U.S. midfield made it easier than he's accustomed to, but Pirlo was his normal brilliant self.

No. 2: Tim Howard

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    Tim Howard could be on this list purely for the roller coaster his central defenders put him through.

    Howard made all the saves and kept a creaky back four together just enough to hold on to the clean sheet. On three occasions in the early going, he intervened while his central defenders floundered. A lesser keeper could have found themselves quickly in a hole that the team could not have escaped.

No. 1: Clint Dempsey

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    Truth be told, Clint Dempsey was a ghost for large parts of this match. But if you sleepwalk for 89 minutes and score the winner in the other, you've done plenty. Dempsey took the chance, hit the net, and won the game. That's all you need. That's why he's No. 1.