By Robert H. Kelly
Feeling the possibly of an early exit and an end to their World Cup 2006 experience, the United States needed to step and play the type of soccer that would show the world they deserved to be here.
Facing an Italian that had far more tradition in the World Cup, the Americans stepped up to the plate, put the ball in the goal, and showed what good old American determination can do.
The Americans put themselves into a possible advancement to the next round with a 1-1 draw with Italy on Saturday. However, nothing has been determined, as all four teams in Group E still have a chance to advance to the second round.
The Italians head the way with four points (1-0-1), followed by the Czechs (1-1-0) and Ghana (1-1-0) with three points each and the United States ((0-1-1) with one point.
After Monday’s debacle, this writer felt the USA had already punched its ticket for an early return home. The one thing I had forgotten was that athletes rarely listen to sports writers and sports writers don’t determine the outcome of games, no matter how much we think we know.
Italy’s Alberto Gilardino, who scored in the 20th minute, voiced praise for the Americans after the match. “We came up against a strong and determined team,” he was quoted in saying.
The United States ties the match with a Cristian Zaccardo own-goal in the 27th minute.
The match was plagued by three red cards, with two of those coming in a span for five minutes."Two red cards in a span of five minutes is pretty hard. There's no way you prepare a team to play 10-on-9 for 45 minutes in a World Cup against a team like the Italians," said USA Head Coach Bruce Arena.
The Americans next take the field on Thursday against Ghana in their final match of the first round of World Cup 2006. They can still advance to the second round with a defeat of Ghana and with a Czech Republic victory over Italy.