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Shooting for a moral victory?

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Well I guess that is what the Team USA is going for today against Italy, one of the powerhouses in the world soccer scene. From ESPN's Ives Galarcep:

Arena doesn't need a win against Italy to save his job and his legacy. He needs his team to play with purpose, to look like a squad that has been prepared and inspired to perform. He needs his players to play like they are led by someone capable of bringing out the best in them. If the team falls flat again on Saturday, the question will have to be asked of whether another coach needs to be brought in to help the U.S. take the next step in its evolution.
Well of course shooting for moral victory is a loser's mentality in sport. That is what mediocre coaches like Karl Dorrell shoot for who play not to lose. If Arena wants to make Team USA's most hyped squad look good today he needs to play to win. And we have the personnel to play with that mentality.

First, let's take a quick look at the Italians? How talented is this Azzurri squad? Well, according to LD, if the World Cup were March madness, Italy is Kentucky. In other words these guys are stocked with blue chip talents:
The roster is one of only two nations with every single player playing professionally in their own country (Saudi Arabia is the other). But unlike the Saudis, Italy is one of the three best leagues in the world, so the roster is loaded with top flight talent. There are 5 from Juventus and AC Milan players, 4 from Palermo, 3 from Roma, 2 from Lazio, and 1 from Udinese, Livorno and Inter. The defense is typically the strength of Italy, and this time around is no different, thanks to recoveries from Nesta and Zambrotta and the veteran Cannavarro. The midfield should be good with Pirlo, Gattuso and especially Totti (who probably deseves his own paragraph). The attack will be something to watch out for, as Italy has been grooming young players. Will they go with Luca Toni and irascible Alberto Gilardino, or will they rely on aging but still potent Del Piero and Inzaghi? We'll see.

The one to watch is between the pipes. Gianluigi Buffon, along with group rival Petr Cech, is one of the world's best keepers. With a solid defense ahead of him, goals will be tough to get. And do not bet against Italy in the event of penalty kicks.
Well that sounds daunting. But don't be fooled. USA does have the personnel to match up with these guys. From LD's same post on Italy:
The second match is the dangerous one. The USA play in Kaiserslautern, and this American team is much different from the one Italy dispatched in 1990 (and did you know that the biggest margin of victory an Italian team has ever had was over the USA? 9-0 in 1948). Arena's scheme is perfect for this match, and the USA uses speed to move forward, and plays much more physical in the midfield than Italy had expected. The Americans won't be pushed around. A Donovan strike and a McBride header put the Yanks up 2-0. A late PK brings Italy back (and pisses me off something fierce). 2-1 USA, but that goal could prove important.
Well Donovan and McBride did not show up our last game. Let's hope those guys will show up and put together decent runs against the Italian defense. BTW LD is not the only one who thinks USA will have a shot. Check out this post from STPAUL BRUIN of BRO:
The Italians do not scare me. If Ghana had a decent strike force to go with Michael Essien, they would have netted at least 2. Italy still has injuries and were able to score only two on Ghana in spite of Ghana's poor defense and goaltending, (although Kingston looked good yesterday). Keller, who is BY FAR the best goalie in the U.S. camp, (taking nothing away from Howard), should be able to keep the Italians more at bay. Remember, I wrote that in terms of pure soccer talent, forgetting age, that the Czechs were the best and most complete team in the World Cup. I predicted 2-0...off by one. The U.S. would have done better if the game was either in the afternoon, or if it was the last of the group games instead of the first.

The U.S. starting line-up should be:

Keller in goal

the defense should be Gooch, Lewis, Conrad, (Pope seems to be out), and Cherundolo who's height won't be exposed by the Italians because outside of Luca Toni, they're pretty short, too.

the mids should be Donovan and Reyna (O'Brien) in the center with O'Brien (Reyna) on the right and Convey on the left.

McBride should be paired with Johnson up front...a runner with a holder. Even having Josh Wolff play up front would give you the same set-up.

The U.S. stands a better chance of winning against Italy IF, and it's a big if, Arena's poor tactical choices haven't completely sapped the U.S. of confidence.

In other words, there is no reason for Team USA to be shooting for a moral victory today against Italy. The game time is set for 3:00 pm EST. It will be broadcast live on ABC. So let's hope Sam's Army will ready and all fired up this afternoon at the Fritz-Walter Stadion in Kaiserslautern.



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