The United States men gained a rare victory over a soccer power, beating Italy, 1-0, on Clint Dempsey’s goal in the 55th minute Wednesday night in Genoa, Italy – the Americans’ first win over the Azzurri in 11 games spanning 78 years.
Dempsey, a Texan who has become an increasingly important element of the American team, took a short pass from Jozy Altidore following Michael Bradley’s cross and put a right-footed shot from just inside the penalty area just past an outstretched hand of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
“I’d like to think that we’re closing the gap and hopefully one day we can do something special,” Dempsey said.
After returning to the World Cup for the first time in 40 years in 1990 and advancing to the quarterfinals in 2002, the Americans have struggled to make additional progress. They were knocked out in the first round of the 2006 World Cup and the second round of the 2010 tournament, eliminated both times with defeats to Ghana. They wasted a two-goal lead against Mexico in June and lost 4-2 in he final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, their regional championship.
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That prompted to U.S. Soccer Federation to fire coach Bob Bradley and replace him with Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German national team star player and coach.
“It’s historic for us beating a team of Italy’s level,” Klinsmann said. “But what we wanted to do above everything was to learn, to see how we could do against a team like Italy. I think the boys did very, very well. They played great for 90 minutes.”
Among the seven nations considered the world powers — Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain — it was the ninth win for the United States to go along with 48 losses and six ties. The Americans had been 0-7-3 against Italy and had been outscored 32-4.
U.S. WOMEN ROLL
Alex Morgan, the newest member of Seattle Sounders Women, scored two goals, and Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Sydney Leroux, another Sounder, had one apiece to help the U.S. open defense of its Algarve Cup title with a 5-0 win over Denmark in Lagos, Portugal.
Seeking their ninth Algarve Cup title and third in a row, the Americans play Norway on March 2, then close first-round play in Group B against Japan on March 5 – their first meeting since Japan beat the U.S. in last year’s Women’s World Cup final.
Former U.S. national team captain Claudio Reyna and goalkeeper Tony Meola have been elected to the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame by a vote of Hall of Famers, administrators and media. Also elected were former defender Desmond Armstrong (veterans’ ballot) and former women’s national team coach Tony DiCicco (builder ballot). … Lionel Messi scored his first international hat trick, leading Argentina over Switzerland, 3-1, in an exhibition game in Bern. Switzerland. It gave the 24-year-old three-time FIFA player of the year 22 international goals. … Host Oman beat Thailand, 2-0, to advance to the next round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Oman finished second in Group D behind Australia.