BRENT LATHAM - Sunday, June 21, 2009
United States vs Egypt
Conferations Cup - Sunday June 21, 2009
Royal Bafokeng Stadium
After an unimpressive showing in their first two Confederations Cup matches, the US turned the tables on high flying Egypt Sunday and secured an unlikely trip to the semifinals with a resounding victory.
The US, with zero points and a negative five goal differential entering the match needed a big win by Brazil over world champions Italy as well as their own large victory in Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
The US started out slowly again, and would have been punished in the second minute had Ahmed Abdelghani been able to do better with a quickly played ball into the box, but the Egyptian fired wide of the goal of Brad Guzan, in for Tim Howard.
Just a minute later the Egyptians were at it again, as Ahmed Al Muhamadi made a dangerous run down the left flank and played a ball through Guzan's box that narrowly evaded two Egyptians before rolling harmlessly out of bounds.
The eleventh minute nearly produced the first Egyptian goal on a scramble in front of the goalmouth, but after a game of pinball Clint Dempsey managed to clear away the ball just before an onrushing Egyptian could arrive to put a final touch on it.
The Americans had their first chance of a wide open first half a minute later when Dempsey fed Michael Bradley as he ran into the box, but the midfielder's shot was saved nicely by Egyptian 'keeper Essam El Hadary.
The US should have taken the lead in the sixteenth minute when Landon Donovan found himself one on one with the Egyptian 'keeper, but the LA Galaxy man opted to try a pass to Josmer Altidore, who didn't turn up where Donovan expected him, and the chance went begging.
It wasn't long though before the Americans had the lead. In the 21st minute, Charlie Davies managed to pounce on a loose ball at the endline, after El Hadary collided with a defender and mishandled an Altidore cross. Finding few other options, the former Boston College man poked the ball towards goal, and it bounced off of El Hadary's face and into the net for the lead.
The Egyptians didn't give in, and in the 40th minute nearly had an equalizer when Hosni Abd Rabbou found some space and pounded a 35-yard shot off the top of Guzan's crossbar.
But the US was already closer to a second, and when Davies ran onto to a Dempsey long ball in first half added time with two defenders chasing, he had Altidore alone in front of goal, but elected to shoot instead. He rifled an angled drive at El Halady, but the Egyptian came up with the save.
It was more of the same in the second half, as the Americans, aware that Italy was already behind 3-0 to Brazil, set out in search of the goals that would get them through.
They nearly found one in the 51st minute, when Altidore found himself with the ball and time near the penalty spot. The Villarreal man collected himself and rifled a shot on goal which El Halady could only get a hand on. As the ball streaked toward the back of the net defender Hani Said clearly intervened with his arm, but the referee chose to do nothing.
Michael Bradley tried his luck from outside the box a few minutes later, but El Halady was up to the task. In the 62nd minute, though, Bradley would get his goal. A neat combination with Donovan led to a return pass which a sliding Bradley tucked away.
The Americans needed at least one more, and they had it in short order, after coach Bob Bradley took Altidore off and moved Clint Dempsey up top alongside Davies. In the 71st minute, a pinpoint Jonathan Spector cross from 45 yards found Dempsey in the box, and the Fulham man nodded home to extend the lead to 3-0.
Though the Egyptians needed only one goal to reclaim their semifinal ticket, they looked disordered and were reeling. The Africans had one final guilt edged chance one minute from time, but Mohamed Aboutrika headed a cross over from point blank range, and the Americans finished off their improbable conquest.
"The odds of going through were slim," man of the match Dempsey said. "But all week we told ourselves we would go out and fight through the final whistle and try to make it through."
Coach Bob Bradley said the team did a better job of focusing than it had in previous matches in South Africa.
"Without a doubt we were focused. We knew in the last game we still needed to go after it in a way that would give us a chance."
The coach was pleased at the early goal scored by the US, after a run of games in which the Americans gave up early scores frequently.
"Getting the first goal becomes important, something that of late hasn't happened. If we were smart we knew we could press and get two more goals. I give credit to the payers the way they fought throughout the game. And now we're excited to move on."
The Americans now head south to Bloemfontein, where they will take on world number one and defending European champions Spain Wednesday, after only two days' rest.