By Noah Davis
The United States Men's National Team came into its match against Egypt in Group B of the Confederations Cup needing a miracle -- two miracles, actually -- to advance into the semifinals of the tournament. With the American's 3-0 victory over the Pharaohs, combined with Brazil's defeat of Italy by the same score, the Stars and Stripes got their miracles. The U.S. will face Spain on Wednesday, but first the winners and losers from Sunday's match.
There was something new in the much-maligned Fulham midfielder's eyes as he stood over a freekick early in the match: desire. Dempsey wanted to prove his critics wrong and his performance against Egypt went a long way towards achieving that goal. He put great passes to Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan that sprung the pair for goal-scoring chances, and he was an offensive threat for 90 minutes. As John Harkes pointed out ad nauseam, Dempsey turned the ball over and he could retreat on defense more, but the midfielder cleared a ball during a scramble in front of the U.S. net when a goal could have broken the American spirit. Oh, and he just happened to put this team through into the semifinals with a wonderful header that closed out the scoring.
With Carlos Bocanegra continuing to recover from injury, Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit paired together in the middle of the United States for the third straight match. The duo is learning to work as a unit wonderfully. The immense Onyewu didn't lose a ball in the air all night, while DeMerit -- although he won't be confused for the fastest man on the pitch -- reads the game beautifully and wreaked havoc by constantly stepping in front of Egyptian forays into the attacking third. Reports would seem to indicate that Bocanegra might be ready for the match on Wednesday. If that's the case, Bob Bradley clearly has a decision to make.
After the first two matches of the Confederations Cup, the U.S. fanbase was disappointed and disgusted. Calls for Bradley's head were coming from every corner of the country, not without reason. But those who watched the game against the Pharaohs were treated to an entirely different American side. Certainly, Egypt -- which was exhausted from battling Brazil then Italy to the wire -- came out flat, but the U.S. pressured its opponent from the opening kick. (See: Dempsey, Clint) Now Sam's Army gets to watch their beloved side take on the world No. 1 with a chance to stop its astonishing undefeated streak. You can't ask for more than that.
American Decision-making in the Attack
It's hard to believe that in a match where the U.S. tallied three goals (in the run of play, no less), the finishing was lacking, but that's the truth, especially in the first half. Donovan made two mistakes -- trying to slot a ball to Jozy Altidore when he should have shot and then trying a cheeky, poorly conceived chip with Charlie Davies and others open. Davies, for his part, should have slid the ball across the box to an open Altidore in first half stoppage time. While the decisions were better after the break, the U.S. should have gone into the locker room with at least a two-goal advantage.
One of the major changes Bradley made was to put the American No. 2 in net. It was, quite clearly, a way for Guzan to get experience in a major international tournament in case he has to fill in for an injured Tim Howard during next summer's World Cup. While Brad Friedel's backup at Aston Villa made a couple important stops early, he looked shaky with Egypt pressing during the final 20 minutes. He seemed to second-guess himself at points and made a number of questionable decisions with regard to coming out. Guzan doesn't have that much experience between the posts for the U.S. (especially with this pair of centerbacks), but he needs to take more control of his area.
Freddy Adu and Jose Francisco Torres
The pair, which will undoubtedly play for the majority of the upcoming Gold Cup (at least they better), clearly isn't going to get on the pitch in South Africa. If there was a match for one (or both) of them to start, it was against Egypt. (Case in point: Guzan in net.) You have to assume that Bradley, whose system requires needs two-way midfielders, questions their commitment, desire, or ability to play defense. Either that or their form is much worse than I, along with many others, think. I can see this being the case with Adu, who hasn't played at all for Monaco, but Torres gets minutes at Pachuca and has looked good in short stints for the U.S. team. Their time is coming, but it's not against Spain.
Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.
For more on the Confederations Cup visit Goal.com's Confederations Cup page.