So, as you are likely aware, the U.S. played to a 1-1 tie against Italy. What's more, they did it with 9 players on the field. Italy was down a man themselves, but to play one of the best teams in the world to a draw when you have fewer players on the field than they have is impressive. Some of my thoughts on the match:
- The red cards: The Italian player deserved his for the foul against McBride. Mastroeni's challenge was of the sort that FIFA's supposedly cracking down on, but I still don't think it was worth a red. It was poorly-timed and reckless, but I don't think he was trying to hurt the guy or anything. Pope's foul would have deserved a yellow card if it had been his first, but I think the ref should show a little restraint in giving out second yellow cards.
- Arena's changes to the starting lineup were good, I thought. Bocanegra for Lewis worked out pretty well, I thought, and Dempsey was very effective. The new lineup let Donovan play facing the goal, where he looked more comfortable. I'd still consider starting Johnson over McBride, his supposed untouchability nonwithstanding. The guy hasn't been much of a threat thus far.
- Speaking of McBride, what a contrast to the Italians he was. It was a physical game, but the Italians were definitely taking some dives and doing the whole "Oh, get the stretcher, I'll never walk again, oh look, now that I'm off the field I'm fine" act. Meanwhile, McBride catches a big elbow, starts bleeding like he's in the WWE, and just walks off to get a band-aid and a clean jersey. You can see why the Fulham fans like him. Maybe he should be left in the starting lineup after all.
- What was the deal with Arena not using the last substitution? I'm not saying we should have put Johnson in for Reyna and risked losing the draw or anything, but why not bring in O'Brien or someone? Reyna looked dead at the end.
- Today on Around the Horn, ESPN's collection of clowns argued about whether the draw should be considered a moral victory. The consensus seemed to be "no," because the offense was no good and we should be past the point of moral victories, or something along those lines. I tend to agree more with this ESPN article. The team played a lot better than they did against the Czechs, and they tied one of the best teams in the world after spotting them a man for a half. If you had told me at the start of the World Cup that we'd tie Italy, I'd have found that acceptable. If you told me we'd manage a tie while being a man down, I'd have been very happy.
- It'll be interesting to see what changes Arena makes, since Pope and Mastroeni will be unavailable. Since Jimmy Conrad came in to take over Pope's spot, I kind of expect we'll see him on the back line.
Replacing Mastroeni will be more interesting. The easy thing for Arena to do will be to just start O'Brien, and that's what he'll probably do. If he gets tricky, though, he might say that since Ghana will be missing two of their best attackers (Gyan and Muntari both picked up their second yellow cards against the Czechs), he won't worry so much about defense, and put in Eddie Johnson up front to replace Mastroeni, and go with a 4-4-2 or something along those lines. I don't really expect it, but I wouldn't think it's out of the question, and I think I'd prefer to see that.