U.S. Make An Early Exit From The Confederations Cup

Kristian SiutaCorrespondent IIJune 19, 2009

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 15:  Ricardo Clark of USA is sent off by Referee Pablo Pozo during the FIFA Confederations Cup match between USA and Italy at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 15, 2009 in Pretoria, South Africa.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

The United States, as a soccer nation has truly come a long way in the past twenty years. The announcement in 1989, that the U.S.A would be the host of the 1994 World Cup brought much criticism, due to the perceived weakness and lack of a professional soccer league in America.

Since then, the MLS has flourished and expanded into a respectable soccer league. The men's national team has since qualified for five straight world cups, and are looking to continue that streak and qualify for South Africa 2010. However, the red, white, and blue still have a lot of work left to do to compete with the big boys.

Qualifying has been commendable for the United States recently, with a few hick ups along the way, most notably in San Jose, Costa Rica (a 3-1 defeat; with their only goal coming from Landon Donovan in the 90th minute.) The national team did respond two days later in Chicago against Honduras earning a 2-1 victory in front of a mostly Honduran fan base. 

The Americans entered the Confederations Cup hopefully optimistic. With world soccer powers Italy, Brazil, and African Nations Cup winners Egypt all on their schedule, the draw for the cup was not too favorable to say the least.

Thirty-three minutes into their opening match against the Italians, midfielder Ricardo Clark, left the red, white, and blue shorthanded. A much deserved red card was shown after a swift kick in the knee on AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso.

Before that, the Americans were matching the physical play and intense pace of the "Azzurri" step by step. Obviously the physical play was slightly over cooked by Clark.

However, the drive and determination of Bob Bradley's side pushed forward and eventually broke the deadlock. Landon Donovan, calm and composed, buried the ball in the back of the net leaving goalie Gianluigi Buffon and the Italians stunned.

And after that moment, it looked like the United States would pull out a dream of a victory, until American born Italian Giussepe Rossi stepped on to the pitch in 56th minute.

From that point on it was history. Soon after that substitution, Rossi stamped his mark on the match with a rocket of a shot from 30 yards out to beat U.S. goalie Tim Howard.

Another "Rossi" gave the Italians the lead, Daniele De Rossi launched another long distance strike to beat Howard in the 71st minute. Rossi later tacked on another goal in the 90th minute to close the book on the United States.

Brazil was up next for Bob Bradley's squad and this was certainly not a walk in the park. The line up for the Brazilians included Kaka, Robinho, Lucio, Juan, and many others. The yellow and blue broke the scoreless affair in the sixth minute off of a free kick that Felipe Melo headed in past Tim Howard.

DaMarcus Beasley turned a U.S. corner kick into a relentless counter attack for the Brazilians as Kaka, Ramires, and Robinho were all on the same page to put their side up by two goals when Robinho slotted the ball past Howard.

The tide started to turn as the U.S. gained momentum only to have a red card to Sacha Kljestan retrack all progress. Inter Milan right back Maicon put the icing on the cake in 61st minute and gave Brazil the 3-0 win.

What was thought to be the "easiest" of the three group games, lone remaining opponent Egypt shocked Italy with a 1-0 win that same day the U.S. were shutout.

Now, Egypt has everything to play for and the United States is looking forward to their Gold Cup match against Grenada.

The Confederations Cup has proved to supporters that the American side is not yet ready to compete with the top dogs on the world football stage. At least not yet.