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Jun. 17th, 2006

The US played one of the best games I've seen them play today and were robbed by poor officiating!

Team USA outplayed Italy from the get-go. They absolutely dominated the first 25 minutes. Then Italy got a cheap free kick and scored off a perfect header. The US got right back within a few minutes. Italy scored an own-goal off a US corner kick.

Then things really got ugly! An Italian player elbowed McBride in the eye. The Italian was sent off with a red card, and McBride, blood streaming down his face, was sent to the sideline to be patched up. When he came back on, the US had a one-man advantage. A few minutes later, Matroeni got nailed with a red card of his own. It was definitely a foul. It was probably even worth a yellow card. But there was nothing deliberate about it—he was clearly going for the ball and arrived late—and everyone agreed it was not worth a red card.

Now Italy and the US were evened up again, ten men apiece. Not for long, though. Eddie Pope made a clean tackle, sweeping the ball away from the Italian player. The referee didn't think it was so clean and gave Pope a yellow card. It was Pope's second yellow card, and thus he got a red card and was sent off.

Even down a man, the US outplayed Italy. They actually scored a goal, a beautiful shot by DaMarcus Beasley. The referee took the goal off the board, though, deeming someone away from the action was offsides. Landon Donovan created a couple of beautiful opportunities for McBride, but McBride could only come close both times. In the end, all the US could get was the one point for the draw.

So, what does this mean? It means the US has to beat Ghana next week and the Italy-Czech Republic game cannot end in a draw. Italy has 4 points, the Czech Republic and Ghana have 3 each, and the US has 1. If the US wins and Italy wins, Italy will win the group and the US will finish second. If the US wins and Italy loses, the US and Italy will both have 4 points, so the US will have to score more goals against Ghana than the Italians did. If there's a tie in goals, then I don't know what the next tie-breaker is.

It's not easy. This is perhaps the toughest group to play in. But at least, thanks to Ghana pulling off the upset earlier today, the scenarios aren't as bleak as they could be.

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