The United States Men’s National Team will kick off their Confederations Cup schedule with a match against Italy on Monday.
By Noah Davis
Who: United States vs. Italy
What: Confederations Cup
When: , Monday, June 15
Where: Loftus Versfeld; Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa
TV: ESPN and Telefutura
With a 2-1 victory over Honduras last Wednesday in its rearview mirror, the United States Men's National Team begins the next phase of its busy summer with a match against the reigning World Cup champions Italy. The game marks the opening tilt for both squads of the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa. For Bob Bradley and the U.S. team -- drawn into a group with the Italians, Brazil, and Egypt -- the tournament represents a true test and advancing to the second round will show the world the Red, White, and Blue are ready to compete on an international level. The road, however, won't be easy.
No Rest for the Weary
The U.S. is in the midst of a brutal, 38-day stretch during which it plays a minimum of eight matches. With injuries affecting the squad -- potential starters Frankie Hedjuk, Brian Ching, Steve Cherundolo, and Maurice Edu will all miss the tournament and center back Carlos Bocanegra picked up an knock against Honduras -- the Americans will rely on their growing depth more than usual. Twenty-three players made the trek to South Africa and it wouldn't be surprising to see almost all of them on the pitch at one point during the three games. The team in Pretoria is similar to what we'll see a year from now, so it's time for the players to gain valuable experience.
Stay for Awhile
After the victory against Honduras, the U.S. put itself in position to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. The team, however, needs to play better if it hopes to make that tournament a success. Getting to the World Cup, while always an accomplishment, is no longer enough. The Americans need to consistently get out of the group stage in major tournaments. Simply put, finding a way into the semifinals from the Group of Certain Death would turn heads on the world stage and give the Stars and Stripes real momentum going into the Gold Cup and its August showdown with Mexico in Azteca.
Déjà vu All Over Again
The last time the U.S. and Italy took the pitch together was during the 2006 World Cup. The teams tied 1-1, in what was (along with the 2002 loss to Germany) the Americans' best performance with the entire world watching. Azzurri captain Fabio Cannavaro -- two matches away from tying Paolo Maldini's record of 126 caps -- will miss the match with a calf strain. With his replacement Nicola Legrottaglie doubtful, Alessandro Gamberini will likely pair alongside Giorgio Chiellini, possibly leaving the Italian center backs vulnerable. That said, the Azzurri has never lost to the Americans, a streak that won't likely be broken in South Africa.
Projected U.S. Lineup
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