The United States did beat Italy, 1-0, in Genoa on Wednesday. However, that was not the Italy of four World Cup championships, and it probably was not the Italy that will play in the European championships in June.
If it had been Italy – you could say – the home team would have found some resourceful and maybe even nasty way to take the air out of the Americans’ tires to salvage at least a tie. But the Italians could not get that done. Therefore, logic dictates, that was not quite Italy out there, even with Andrea Pirlo chipping exquisite passes to all kinds of forwards.
Still, the Yanks were able to create the one sturdy goal that gave them the first victory ever against Italy, in 82 years of competition. The Americans had lost seven and drawn three until Wednesday.
Probably the best part of the victory was that Jozy Altidore did what he was not able to accomplish in 2010 in the World Cup in South Africa – that is, hunker down near the goal, control a neat centering pass from Fabian Johnson, and hold off the Italian defenders while Clint Dempsey slipped into position to take a pass and knock in the goal.
Altidore and the U.S. are still capable of playing stinkers in more important matches, as proven in the 2010 World Cup when after drawing with England they were held to a draw by Slovenia, barely survived with a last-minute victory over Algeria, and then were outplayed by Ghana in the knockout round.
It was good to see the stalwarts like Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra and Dempsey play solid ball with a lead. Jurgen Klinsmann’s trio of German-born recruits – Danny Williams, Terence Boyd and Johnson – displayed the depth of soccer in German, or rather the lack of widespread development in the U.S.
There have been revolutionary victories before – over Spain in the Confederations Cup in 2009, for example, and over Mexico in the 2002 World Cup, still probably the most important victory by the U.S. in half a century.
In the post-match interview Wednesday, Dempsey called the victory “ a confidence builder,” and he called the team “a work in progress.” He was right. Been there before.