The US national team produced their first-ever win against Italy thanks to Clint Dempsey’s second-half strike in a 1-0 win at Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa on Wednesday.
The pivotal moment came in the 55th minute when Fabian Johnson whipped in a teasing ball that Jozy Altidore laid off superbly for the on-rushing Dempsey, who drilled his shot hard and low past the despairing dive of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
The win marks the first time the US have defeated Italy in 11 attempts since the nations first met 82 years ago. It also marks the first time Italy have lost in Genoa since 1924.
Facing the three-time World Cup champions was clearly the biggest test yet for US manager Jurgen Klinsmann, and his side passed with flying colors, earning a fourth straight victory. The USMNT's record under Klinsmann is now 5-4-1.
For large swathes of the contest, the US didn’t look out of place against an Italian side that cruised through qualifying for this summer's 2012 European Championship. Michael Bradley, in particular, was in world-class form, holding his defensive positiion perfectly in the midfield and distributing with rarely an error.
In the first half, the Azzurri came flying out of the traps and looked ominously potent in attack. US goalkeeper Tim Howard came to the rescue in the fourth minute when Thiago Motta latched onto a Christian Miaggio cross and forced the Everton shot-stopper into an instinctive save from six yards out.
The lively Italian forward Sebastian Giovinco continued to find holes in behind the US backline, but as the half wore on, the US team began to grab a stranglehold on proceedings.
Altidore’s pace and hold-up play, in particular, began to cause the Italians problems. It was thanks to this that the US had their best opening of the first period. In the 36th minute, the impressive Altidore won a free kick, which Demspey hammered on target from 25 yards out. But the Fulham man’s venomous effort was straight down the throat of Buffon, who parried the ball to safety.
The match remained scoreless until Dempsey broke the deadlock. The goal was Dempsey's 26th for the USA, lifting him above Joe-Max Moore into fourth all-time on the USMNT scoring list.
After the goal, the US were content to sit back and soak up pressure. Italy huffed and puffed late on, but failed to break the solid US defense. Riccardo Montolivo came closest to grabbing an equalizer with a rising shot which flew wide in the 92nd minute. However the US defended resolutely to see out the impressive away win, and give Klinsmann a landmark victory.
Klinsmann made several changes late on, including the introduction of 19-year-old Borrusia Dortmund striker Terrence Boyd for his debut and LA Galaxy striker Edson Buddle.
USA - Clint Dempsey (Jozy Altidore) 55'
Italy: 1-Gianluigi Buffon (capt.); 2-Christian Maggio (5-Daniel De Rossi, 71), 15-Andrea Barzagli, 20-Angelo Obinze Ogbonna, 4-Domenico Criscito (3-Giorgio Chiellini, 46); 13-Thiago Motta (7-Gianpaolo Pazzini, 59), 21-Andrea Pirlo, 8-Claudio Marchisio (11-Ignazio Abate, 71), 23-Antonio Nocerino (18-Riccardo Montolivo, 46); 9-Alessandro Matri (22-Fabio Borini, 59), 10-Sebastian Giovinco
Subs not used: 6-Federico Balzaretti, 14-Davide Astori, 16-Salvatore Sirigu, 17-Emiliano Viviano, 19-Leonardo Bonucci, 24-Morgan De Sanctis
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Steve Cherundolo, 4-Clarence Goodson, 5-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 3-Fabian Johnson (13-Jonathan Spector, 77); 6-Michael Bradley, 8-Maurice Edu; 7-Danny Williams,10-Clint Dempsey (17-Edson Buddle, 90), 11-Brek Shea (16-Sacha Kljestan, 73); 9-Jozy Altidore (18-Terrence Boyd, 79)
Subs not used: 12-Nick Rimando, 14-Michael Parkhurst, 15-Geoff Cameron
ITA - Giorgio Chiellini 67th minute
USA - Carlos Bocanegra 68th minute
Referee: Firat Aydinus (TUR)
Assistant Referee 1: Serkan Ok (TUR)
Assistant Referee 2: Aleks Tascioglu (TUR)
Fourth Official: Andrea De Marco (ITA)