June 25, 2009
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa – In one of the greatest matches in U.S. Soccer history, the U.S. got goals by Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey to stun No. 1-ranked Spain 2-0 and advance to the finals of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. The U.S. Men’s National Team will face the winner of the other semifinal match between Brazil and South Africa in their first ever final in a FIFA tournament on Sunday, June 28 in Johannesburg.
One of the starting defenders is former Clemson great Oguchi Onyewu. Onyewu played for Clemson in the 2000 and 2001 seasons and was named to the Soccer America MVP team in 2001 and was named a NSCAA All-American in 2001. Onyewu was a Hermann Award Finalist in 2001.
During his career at Clemson, he was named first-team All-ACC in 2000 and 2001. He also scored the game-winning goal in the ACC Championship match vs. North Carolina (11-3-01) and two goals in the closing minutes of the NCAA Tournament match vs. Alabama-Birmingham (12-2-01). He was also named to the ACC’s 50-Year Anniversary Team.
Altidore ignited the upset with a fantastic show of strength and skill to score from the top of the 18-yard box in the 27th minute, while Dempsey surprised the Spaniards to provide the insurance goal in the 74th minute en route to earning his second consecutive ussoccer.com Man of the Match award.
Tim Howard, who returned to goal after resting for the final group match against Egypt, made eight saves to match an impressive performance by the U.S. defense, which shutout Spain to snap their world record 15-game winning streak and 35-game unbeaten streak.
“For us it’s a big night,” said U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley. “The players all work hard. We constantly talk about reaching higher and trying to accomplish new things. Spain is a team that we have the greatest respect for. They are a super team. Their ability to play, pass and move. We knew it was a challenge, but we felt that we would have a chance and that we could win this game.
“We had a real confidence that we could try to make it harder for them than some of the other teams they have play against, and we had the weapons that could cause them some trouble. We have some speed up front. We have some guys that come out of the midfield. I think that those are all things that work for us.”
The FIFA Confederations Cup final will be broadcast live at 2:25 p.m. ET live on ESPN2 and Univision, and fans can follow ussoccer.com¹s MatchTracker and at twitter.com/ussoccer. The U.S. will find out their opponent after the other semifinal between Brazil and South Africa is played on Thursday, June 25, live on ESPN and Univision at 2:25 p.m. ET.
After what will undoubtedly be considered one of the greatest victories of all-time, the U.S. Men¹s National Team is now 2-7-1 against the top team in the FIFA World Rankings and has a 2-2-0 overall record at the Confederations Cup with six goals scored and six allowed. The U.S. was the first team to shutout Spain since Italy did so in the 2008 European Championships. The win was the first victory by a CONCACAF team against Spain, and the match marked the first time in 29 games that Spain allowed two goals.
Bradley made just two changes to the lineup that started against Egypt, with Howard returning in goal and team captain Carlos Bocanegra making his first appearance of the tournament. Bocanegra, making his first start at left back since March 25, 2007, joined a back line of Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit and Jonathan Spector.
The game began at a frenetic pace, with the U.S. getting the better of chances in the first 10 minutes. Charlie Davies, starting two consecutive games for the first time in his national team career, nearly immortalized himself with a bicycle kick off a Dempsey cross that went wide left of the goal in the seventh minute. One minute later, Davies directed a Bocanegra cross just wide of goal. Shortly after Dempsey had a dangerous shot bounce wide left from the top of the penalty area.
Spain was not without chances, most coming through the trio of Fernando Torres, David Villa and Cesc Fabregas, who had a 10th-minute volley sail over the crossbar. One minute later, Fabregas hit a dangerous, low cross to the right post where Bocanegra did well to force Torres to shoot high.
As play moved back the other way, Donovan capped a 35-yard run with a low shot that missed wide left before Spain answered almost immediately with Albert Riera bouncing a cross that was too high for Torres at the near post.
The U.S. capitalized on the hectic pace through Altidore in the 27th minute, ending Spain¹s shutout streak at 451 minutes, their last allowed goal in an April 1 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Turkey. The play started as Bocanegra settled a blocked pass by Michael Bradley, and played it back to Bradley in the center of the field. The central midfielder curled a ball up the left sideline to Davies, who played the ball to Dempsey with his first touch. Dempsey played a one-two with Davies to get past his defender, and looked for Altidore who was posting up against his Villareal teammate Joan Capdevila. Dempsey¹s pass was deflected by Xabi Alonso who was tracking back, but still found Altidore, who held off Capdevila before hitting a strike that went off goalkeeper Iker Casillas¹ right hand and the inside the left post before hitting the back of the net.
A Villa shot set up by a lucky bounce of Torres¹ heel sailed high in the 32nd minute, and then once again it went back to the other end where Dempsey nearly got his head to a Donovan free kick to direct it toward goal. Spain closed the first half with pressure, with DeMerit stopping a shot off the foot of Sergio Ramos and then Howard coming up with one of his clutch saves on the night, a left-footed kick against Torres, who had created the point-blank chance by rounding Bocanegra as he entered the penalty area.
Spain came out flying in the second half, and Howard and the U.S. defense was up to the task, absorbing pressure that included four shots in the first 10 minutes. Just two minutes in, Howard came off his line to parry away a cross, and a minute later pulled out a world-class save as Villa curled a shot that looked destined for the right side netting with the outside of his left foot from 16 yards.
Three more of Howard¹s eight saves came up in the 52nd minute (Villa after a corner kick), 56th minute (Villa shooting near post) and 64th minute (Ramos shooting near post). In the 65th minute, Ricardo Clark made the first of many great hustle plays by the U.S. down the stretch when he recovered on a ball switched to the far post to slide and deny Ramos a clear shot.
In the 69th minute, the U.S. went to the bench bringing on Benny Feilhaber for Davies. As he did against Egypt, Dempsey moved to forward with Feilhaber stepping into Dempsey¹s slot in the midfield.
Five minutes later, the move paid dividends as Dempsey scored the insurance goal. Dempsey checked back to break up Spain¹s passing rhythm, and his interception could not be controlled by Xavi with Bradley stepping in to take the ball and start the U.S. attack.
Bradley switched the ball to Feilhaber, who came inside to keep Ramos from intercepting. Feilhaber dribbled to the top of the penalty area, and faked a shot to draw in defenders before playing an entry pass to Donovan on the right. Donovan¹s low cross to the back post deflected off the heel of Gerard Pique before Ramos settled it at the far post. Dempsey, unseen by Ramos, quickly recovered from the defender¹s goal side to turn and hit a sliding shot into the net before Ramos could recover.
“It’s huge for U.S. Soccer,” said Dempsey. “I think it’s the first time for the men to be in the final of a major international competition. This is much sweeter because we were down and out. We came back fighting in the Egypt game. No one expected us to win this game. We fought hard, showed a lot of heart playing compact defensively, picked our moments to go forward and got some goals. We’re excited by the result, and I think all the fans back home will be excited as well.”
With the two-goal cushion, the U.S. put forth an impressive defensive effort to keep the clean sheet down the stretch. Two more confident saves by Howard in the 79th and 81st minutes were his last of the game as DeMerit, Spector, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Clark, Donovan and Bradley all made key tackles and clearances.
In the 86th minute, the U.S. faced a major setback when Bradley was shown a red card for a slide tackle on Xavi Alonso on a 50-50 challenge, and the midfielder will now miss Sunday¹s final. It was the third time in four games the U.S. has had a player sent off.
Dempsey continues to climb the all-time scoring lists for the U.S., and by scoring his 15th career goal, he is now tied with Cobi Jones for eighth on the all-time goal list. He also leapfrogged Claudio Reyna on the all-time points list and is now tied at ninth with Eddie Lewis with 36 points.
Following the Confederations Cup final, the team switches gears immediately to returns to home soil to defend the CONCACAF Gold Cup title from July 3-26 in 13 venues across the United States. Training camp for the Gold Cup opens on June 30 for the U.S. in Seattle, and Bradley will announce the 23-player roster on Thursday, June 25.
U.S. Defender Oguchi Onyewu Quotes
On the U.S. goals for the final: “We didn’t come into this competition just to participate. We came here to compete and hopefully win the tournament. Right now we are thrilled to be able to get through to the finals, and it¹s one more step. We have to watch the game tomorrow to see who our competitor is going to be, but I think regardless of who it’s going to be we’re going out there to compete.”
On what changed from the first two games to the last two: “I don’t think too many things changed. I think we were very unlucky (against Italy and Brazil) and playing two great teams with 10 men. The main thing is that we stuck to our tactics, and we didn’t try and change anything. We knew that if we stuck to our game plan and stuck it out things might change for us and they did.”
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