The United States Men's National Team beat Italy for the first time ever on Wednesday, 1-0. The US Men's National Team did it on Italian soil to boot, in Genoa, a city where Italy has enjoyed much success over the years.
Here's somethings we learned...
Some Things Are Still The Same...But There Are Good Signs
The USMNT worked hard, and took its chance when it came. This wasn't a performance Jurgen Klinsmann will be disappointed with, but it's not the perfect display either.
The fluid, attacking soccer Klinsmann is supposed to usher in to the American side wasn't on display save for a few hints here and there. It was an old-school USA approach—sit deep and counter on the break when an opportunity arises—but that's not to say the goal wasn't the kind of build-up play Klinsmann was looking for.
USA scored in the 56' from a Clint Dempsey strike after a beautiful Jozy Altidore lay-off at the edge of the 18-yard-box.
The build up goes back to Michael Bradley's patience on the ball and neat chip to Fabian Johnson overlapping on the left-side. Johnson then whipped in a good cross to Altidore, who was alone in the box, and the American forward then took two simple touches and dropped the ball to Dempsey and Dempsey didn't waste the chance with a beautiful low shot.
The technique and patience and understanding in the build-up is exactly what Klinsmann is looking for.
He wants to see the ball work its way from one side to the other and then creative and inventive play open up defenses for good chances. It was a glimpse into how the USA should be playing against a lesser opponent for a full 90 minutes, but that wasn't realistic against Italy.
Michael Bradley Looks More Mature, That's Important
For the USA to play the way Klinsmann wants, the team needs a leader in the center of the midfield. The team needs a heart, a beat, and a player who can carry the responsibility of playing the ball forward when need be and turning it back when the team loses its shape.
Michael Bradley looks like he has finally grown into being that kind of leader on the field.
Dempsey may have scored the US's goal, but it was Bradley who did most of the hard work. He made one important tackle after the other and controlled the tempo of the U.S.'s game when he was played as the outlet man. He showed to the ball when teammates were in trouble and made himself available, even if he wans't always used.
The move to Chievo in the summer seems to be paying off for Bradley. He needed to secure a regular spot for a club after failing to burst through at Aston Villa last year while on loan from Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Finally settled and finally playing the part he was always meant to, Bradley looks like he can be the beating heart of the American midfield, something the team desperately needs in qualifying and when/if it reaches the World Cup in Brazil.
If he doesn't continue to mature, it's hard to say who will be the consistent presence in front of the backline.
Altidore Continues to Mature, But Still Needs More Polishing
Altidore burst onto the USA scene as and 16 year old, then he moved to Europe and couldn't find his footing.
His skill didn't improve. He lost confidence. He was humbled, which needed to happen.
But the smile went away, and the goals dried up quickly. His passing lost its sharpness. Now, he's emerging again after his summer move to AZ Alkmaar, and it's paying off for the U.S.
His hold-up play was strong against some of the best center backs in the world, and one of the tightest defenses in the world.
He played quick balls. He found good space. And he worked against Italy.
At times he struggled, but that's expected from any forward playing alone with little to no support. His layoff to Dempsey was a thing of beauty. He took down the cross with one touch, and then dropped it neatly to Dempsey's feet.
The move showed the kind of skill Altidore once promised and now hopefully will deliver on a regular basis.
Fabian Johnson Can Play Left Back For the National Team
Yes he can.
Johnson may not be the answer for the USA at left back, but the Hoffenheim player can get up down the flank well enough to make up lost ground or deliver a cross.
He started out a little shaky, but he regained his composure and worked hard and stayed mindful of the overlapping threat of Italy's Christian Maggio, arguably the world's most in from left back.
It will be interesting to see what Klinsmann decides to do with Johnson.
He can play higher up the field as a winger or be a half-decent defender. When Timmy Chandler returns to the side, look for Johnson to play in front of Chandler and look for the German-Americans to link up and down the left-flank.
A major upside for Johnson, though, is that he is left-footed, something the USA desperately needs from a defender. This all spells good signs for the USA as it looks to push for the 2014 World Cup.
No Game is Out of Reach...Ever
The USA may never have beaten the Italians, but that doesn't mean any game is out of reach. This game was a good reminder to the team and the fans that no matter the situation, every game is winnable.
The USA beat Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup. The team was a world beater. It was the high point of the warm-up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
This game is another high, but it shouldn't be the last.
USA is cycling in some new blood to this roster and things look promising. Hopefully everything goes as planned and USA actually competes in Brazil, as it should be.
This win proves the U.S. belongs there with the best and can show up and beat anyone on any given day.
Note on the Italians
The Italian National Team wasn't at its best against the USA, but that shouldn't take away from the win.
Italy is a four-time winner of the World Cup, two-time runner-up and a formidable team that didn't allow a single goal on Italian soil during its Euro 2012 qualifying.
While the team was cycled through, and new players were being played, the USA still beat one of the world's best teams in its warm up for the Euros—a competition they are looking to win.
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