It was a battle from start to finish, and while the men’s national team and head coach Bruce Arena ’73 could not crack the Italian defense to earn a win, the Americans did conquer their own history as they earned their first World Cup point on European soil with a 1-1 tie against the Italians in Kaiserslautern, Germany, yesterday.
Three players were ejected from the game — two Americans, one Italian — the Italians gave up an own goal, and the winning goal was disallowed when the refs called the Americans offsides.
Alberto Gilardino put the Italians on the board first in the 22nd minute when he beat the American defense and headed Andrea Pirlo’s free kick past goalkeeper Kasey Keller. The Americans knotted the score with a little help from their opponents when Italian defender Cristian Zaccardo misconnected on a clear attempt and deflected Bobby Convey’s freek kick into his own goal in the 27th minute.
“This team is alive, and that’s where we wanted to be,” Keller told the Associated Press. “It was a total team effort and those guys bled today for our country and our team.”
But when it was over, the U.S. emerged with a point, and thanks to Ghana’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic, a chance to advance to the second round with if it can beat Ghana and gets a little help from the other teams in its group. Italy leads Group E with four points, the Czechs and Ghana each have three, and the U.S. trails with a single point. If the U.S. wins against Ghana, and if the Italians beat the Czechs in the final game of group play on Thursday, the Americans will advance. The U.S. could also move on if Italy and the Czech Republic tie and the Americans win by at least four goals, or depending on tiebreakers if Italy loses.
“Perhaps four points for the U.S. team will be good enough to get out of the group,” Arena told the Associated Press.