U.S.A.-Mexico Live Blog

Hello and welcome to this blog for El Superclasico Norteamericano. Not quite en vivo del Estadio Azteca, but we’ll bring you all the action.

3:47- Teams in, per Ives Galarcep:

USA

—————Ching———-Davies—————–

Donovan———————————-Dempsey

—————–Bradley—–Clark————————

Bocanegra—–Onyewu—–DeMerit—–Cherundolo

————————-Howard————————–

MEXICO

—————–Franco———Blanco——————–

Guardado—————————————Dos Santos

——————Torrado——Castro———————

Juarez———Magallon——-Salcido———-Osorio

————————–Ochoa——————————

3:49- ESPN re-ran a piece on SportsCenter about the deep hatred these countries have for each other when it comes to soccer. Landon Donovan is often at the center of it, for one reason or another.

3:52- Coming back to the teams, Steve Cherundolo’s experience wins out over Jonathan Spector’s strong displays earlier this summer in the U.S.A. defense. Ching is preferred to Jozy Altidore up front, and Conor Casey will not dress. For Mexico, Jonny Magallon starts in defense over Aaron Galindo. No Rafael Marquez, as we already knew.

3:53- 77 degrees at kickoff with a chance of thunderstorms later, but virtually no humidity at the moment. Teams should be coming out soon.

3:55- To loud horns and roars, the players have indeed arrived along with referee Roberto Moreno of Panama. The game is sold out, over 100,000 strong in the Azteca, and apparently tickets were scalped for over $400 today. National anthems coming.

3:57- Plenty of reminders lately about the U.S.’s 0-22-1 record in Mexico, plus El Tri’s 62-1-4 record at home in qualifiers. Will that change today? I’m not convinced of it, but that’s why they will play the game! Some mild booing audible as the “Star Spangled Banner” is played. It is a pretty bitter rivalry, after all, and we’ve seen this sort of thing in other countries and sports too.

3:59- Loud singing of Mexico’s national anthem. The players join in too.

4:02- Predictably, Marcelo Balboa on television emphasizes set pieces and possession for the U.S. Those have clearly been issues in recent matches. For Mexico, he wonders about pace, wing play, and how the defenders stand up without Marquez.

4:03- Red Card Sports notes what’s at stake. And we’re off.

2nd Minute- Tim Howard saves comfortably on a long shot from Andres Guardado.

3rd Minute- Guillermo Ochoa gets the ball but Charlie Davies beat Mexico’s defenders. Could be a problem later.

4th Minute- Bocanegra sweeps away a cross from Blanco and Guardado can do little more with the ball. Both teams trying to probe the defenses right away.

5th Minute- Brian Ching goes over the top of a defender to try and win a header. He’s deservedly called for a foul and the ball was far over his head anyway.

6th Minute- Mexico takes advantage of a Steve Cherundolo turnover deep, but Guardado shoots over the top.

8th Minute- First corner to the U.S.A. Nothing really comes of it, although Dempsey eventually gets the ball and takes a few dribbles before Magallon tackles the ball away.

9th Minute- GOAL U.S.A.– Donovan finds Charlie Davies, who breaks away from Juarez and fires a rocket into the corner. Ochoa couldn’t get there quickly enough. That could change everything in terms of pace and approach from both teams. 1-0 U.S.A.

12th Minute- Guardado fires a low, weak, and wide shot.

13th Minute- Guillermo Franco heads wide, referee says it deflected off an American. Corner to Mexico, which Guardado can’t keep in play despite a valiant effort. By the way, Charlie Davies is the fourth American ever to score in a game at Mexico.

15th Minute- Oguchi Onyewu heads away a corner.

17th Minute- Blanco serves in a free kick (won through a foul by Jay DeMerit) and gets the ball back on a one-touch from Dos Santos. His shot not quite good enough.

19th Minute- GOAL Mexico– Mexico held position for a while and didn’t do much with it. But Blanco gets both Clark and Bradley to guard him, passes to Israel Castro near the bar, who takes one touch, lines it up, and fires a screamer off the bar and into the net. His first international goal, and he might never score a better or more timely one. Bocanegra and Onyewu did give him quite a lot of room. Tied 1-1.

24th Minute- Dos Santos with some nice moves, dodges two defenders and shoots agonizingly wide. It won’t matter though, he was flagged offside.

26th Minute- Ching finds Donovan, who then passes to Dempsey. A pass out wide finds nobody, so Mexico gets a throw-in. As I said earlier, possession is still an issue for the Yanks.

27th Minute- Onyewu is booked for needlessly handling the ball. He’s now banned from the next qualifier in September.

29th Minute- DeMerit makes a rough last-ditch tackle on Dos Santos. He did have a foot off the ground. Yellow card and a free kick near the U.S.A. box. Blanco shoots a stinger which Howard parries away despite a minor screen. Osorio then shoots over the bar from long range.

30th Minute- Blanco and Dos Santos are starting to really give the midfielders and defenders (who are both now booked) fits.

31st Minute- Dos Santos goes over the top on a tackle but escapes a yellow. Free kick aimed at Donovan’s head, which doesn’t work too well on this occasion.

33rd Minute- Blanco tries to chip in Franco, but the American defenders sniff it out.

34th Minute- Cherundolo is fouled in a dangerous position by Guardado. Donovan lines up. He fires to the back post, and Onyewu goes up unsuccessfully for the ball. He’s also called for a foul, having barged into Magallon and Salcido.

37th Minute- Some more Mexico thrusts. They’re not getting too close to Tim Howard, but the defenders really haven’t done a great job of breaking up plays before the potential final pass.

40th Minute- Corner kick for Mexico and it’s fired long where Davies snatches it away. The ball comes to Ching, who is fouled near the center line by Castro.

41st Minute- Donovan takes the free kick and his long ball is deflected by Osorio out for a U.S. corner. Davies and Castro jockey for position and the ref warns them to stop.

42nd Minute- The corner pretty much misses everyone, and Ching is called for bumping into one of the Mexican players.

43rd Minute- Franco tries a long shot, but Onyewu is too close and immediately deflects it away.

45th Minute- Onyewu takes position and finds Ching in midfield. He wins a throw-in, from which little develops other than the ball rolling back to Howard and almost behind for a corner. Instead, Davies wins a long ball briefly before a double-team stops him. Now Bocanegra is booked for a late tackle on Guardado. Into stoppage time.

4:50- Halftime. Mexico had most of the possession, especially after the U.S. stunned them with an early goal. But it’s 1-1 heading back to the locker room. Bob Bradley has to worry about having three defenders with yellow cards and decide if/when to enter Altidore into the proceedings. Javier Aguirre will be reminding his charges that they simply must keep Charlie Davies in their sites.

5:07- Teams are back out for the second half.

47th Minute- U.S. free kick early on. A Mexican heads the ball away at the edge of the box and though it comes back to another U.S. player, El Tri eventually takes over.

48th Minute- Onyewu and Bocanegra combine to foil a pass to Blanco and win a throw to boot. Ball played down field to Donovan and then back to Bradley, but Bocanegra is caught off his stride and it goes out for a Mexican throw.

51st Minute- Michael Bradley makes a hash of his attempted clearance, and it eventually becomes a Mexico corner. Service comes to an open Franco but his half-volley is wide. Onyewu was almost caught out of position.

52nd Minute- Davies nearly outmaneuvered Osorio in the Mexican box. He would have been in alone on Ochoa.

53rd Minute- Torrado shoots off-target.

55th Minute- Even Mexico is taking a short siesta. You might think they’d be used to the altitude of Mexico City, but many of the players represent club teams abroad.

56th Minute- Blanco’s day is done. Carlos Vela replaces him. He starred in the Gold Cup Final, albeit against an American team primarily composed of reserves.

58th Minute- Double change for the U.S. Stuart Holden and Benny Feilhaber come in. Ching and Clark exit. This is about ball possession, and it probably means Donovan will play in an advanced role behind Davies.

59th Minute- Tim Howard makes a great save on Dos Santos, whom Guardado found completely open about 15 yards from goal. Where was the defending on either player?

62nd Minute- Penalty shout from Mexico but Vela really went down pretty easily in the box and was hardly touched. The referee wasn’t fooled. El Tri has most of the possession right now, although DeMerit and Bocanegra clean up a little mess before Torrado shoots over the top.

64th Minute- Salcido fouls Holden. Davies unable to win the subsequent long ball and Ochoa collects.

66th Minute- Half chance for Mexico but a low cross goes to nobody in particular. Quarter of the match to go.

68th Minute- A U.S. throw in goes to Dempsey who plays it long to Donovan. His centering pass gets past Castro but not the second defender. Now some chaos as Onyewu is called for a foul. Then a minor skirmish with a Mexican player. DeMerit also called for a foul. Remember, he and Onyewu already have yellows.

69th Minute- The U.S. clears away Mexico’s free kick from the box. Gustavo Nery is warming up for Mexico.

70th Minute- Davies is dispossessed. The Mexican midfielders pass it around but Onyewu steals it.

71st Minute- Great cross by Holden. Davies just missed a chance at a free header. Nery enters.

72nd Minute- Davies is just offside by a hair. Mexico dodges a huge bullet because Bradley made a perfect pass.

73rd Minute- U.S. foul near the box. Dos Santos fires and it’s deflected out. Tim Howard screams that Torrado touched (or handled it last) but corner is the decision. Replay is inconclusive.

74th Minute- Now handbags between the teams. Feilhaber and Davies take shots after trying to get the ball and break up the skirmish, respectfully. Torrado at the center of it for Mexico, as he has been for most of their action today. He gets booked and will miss Mexico’s next qualifier.

76th Minute- Franco deflects a loose ball and thinks it’s going to roll in. Not quite, as Howard grabs it in time. Altidore on for Davies, that’s the final U.S. throw of the dice.

78th Minute- Bocanegra commits another foul. It actually could have been a second yellow, but the referee spares him.

79th Minute- Mexico’s final substitution sees Miguel Sabah replaces Franco. Striker for striker.

80th Minute- Header on target from Mexico, but not a tough catch for Howard.

81st Minute- Mexico thought they had earned a corner, but are instead called for a foul. It could have been worse, as one player tried to forcibly take the ball from Onyewu, whom he thought had been wasting time.

82nd Minute- GOAL Mexico– What an inspired substitution. Miguel Sabah is first to a ball rolling in the box after DeMerit tackled it away from Juarez and smashes it into the roof of the net. The other defenders perhaps could have been more alert in the danger area, but the finish was excellent. The Azteca goes berserk. 2-1 Mexico.

85th Minute- Dos Santos booked.

88th Minute- Howard starts play for the U.S. Next pass not quite on target, but they get it back and a subsequent cross gets headed to safety. The police protects Donovan from bottles some fans are throwing, whose effort is punched away by Ochoa.

89th Minute- Altidore wins a throw in. It’s basically wasted.

90th Minute- Mexico just trying to hold onto the ball as the game enters injury time. There probably won’t be too much of it.

91st Minute- Howard plays a long-ball. Dempsey and a couple of others touch it in the Mexican box, but can’t turn towards goal to shoot. Cherundolo was not able to get the ball either.

93rd Minute- A foul by Torrado gives Cherundolo a chance for a long ball. Every other American field player came up. Comes to nothing, really. Mexico breaks out but it won’t matter, because there’s the final whistle from Roberto Moreno. Full Time, 2-1 Mexico.

5:57- Veritable ecstasy in Mexico as El Tri’s wins the game they absolutely had to, both from the standpoint of pride, and in terms of World Cup qualification. Javier Aguirre and the players hugging each other as they exit. They’re now just one point behind the U.S. for second place in CONCACAF. Costa Rica now has a real chance to finish first when all is said and done. They actually play Mexico in September. For the U.S., it was a decent performance, and I really think they paced themselves well with regard to handling the altitude. They’re home for El Salvador in their next qualifier. Winning that one, as well as the final home game against Costa Rica, should ensure a World Cup place. Today, however, they will rue the lack of possession and good passing. Mexico just about deserved to win.

That’s all for now.

USA-Mexico Rosters Announced

USA head coach Bob Bradley announced his traveling party to the Azteca this afternoon. No real surprises at all, possibly other than Brian Ching and Conor Casey both being on it. That’s interesting as those two seem like pretty similar players- hold-up/work-rate forwards in the vein of Emile Heskey. Since only 18 of the 20 players called up can be on the game-day roster, one of those two will likely be dropped. Otherwise, it’s the A-team, with Chad Marshall and Stuart Holden added on the strength of their performances in the recent Gold Cup.

ESPN and Ives Galarcep give their thoughts here and here. I like Ives’ lineup suggestion, but I think Bob Bradley will probably start Jozy Altidore over Charlie Davies, assuming Ching is a near lock in order to win balls near the goal. Altidore has been starting for a while, so that’s one of the main reasons for this opinion. Also, I think Steve Cherundolo may start over Jonathan Spector if he’s fully fit. Veteran over youth in a cauldron-like environment.

Mexico’s team was revealed last week. The big surprise is no Pavel Pardo, whom Mexico coach Javier Aguirre apparently doesn’t rate at this level. Also, captain Rafael Marquez is injured and will definitely miss the game. Of course, that also means he won’t get himself sent off as he did in the reverse qualifier back in February with a petulant kick at Tim Howard. But ageless veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco does get the call. It’s certainly a team that can score goals. Where they seem to be vulnerable against the U.S. is on set pieces (free kicks and corners), so watch out for that during the game.

So, can this be the first American team, and only the second overall, to win at the Azteca come Wednesday afternoon? My honest guess is no, but stay tuned. Mexico just has to win this game to feel comfortable about their chances of getting to South Africa for the World Cup via an automatic qualifying spot (CONCACAF’s top-3 make it, fourth place has to win a two-leg playoff against South America’s fifth place team), while the U.S. should pretty much book their ticket by winning their two remaining home games. Plus, if they don’t, the crowd and media down there are known to put big-time heat on the Mexican players and coaching staff after any poor performance. Against their biggest rivals? Dial it up times 100.

Maybe the Transfer Market Really Isn’t Overheated

When I heard Sir Alex Ferguson complain about an overheated transfer market because he lost Carlos Tevez to Manchester City (who will also apparently add Emmanuel Adebayor), I thought the remark rung hollow. After all, this United fan correctly notes that the Red Devils have completed plenty of big money moves. And while the blogger is skeptical of Michael Owen at this stage of his career, the deal could certainly be a good one because Owen has proven that he can still score when healthy. Also, the signings of Gabriel Obertan and Antonio Valencia, coupled with the returning Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and perhaps even a few more gems from Man U’s academy, Owen, Wayne Rooney, and Dimitar Berbatov should get plenty of good service into the box.

Michael Owen in a new shade of Red.

Michael Owen in a new shade of Red.

Speaking of Tevez, footbo takes a somewhat comedic look at his departure from Old Trafford. This move was definitely more about money (which Man City has plenty of through their Middle East-based ownership) than playing time, or even which manager he liked more, which is just how things work nowadays. Also, he may end up buying Cristiano Ronaldo’s old home. Crushed Ferrari not included, I suppose. Phil McNulty says that Tevez’s signing will be worth the millions it cost to buy out the agency which owned his rights, along with the millions in actual salary, because this move, as with buying Robinho last year, is for a player proven to get it done at the highest level and who should have many more great years to come. Good point. It’s way different from signing over-the-hill names just to sell tickets or merchandise. Man City and manager Mark Hughes want to win. Adebayor’s loss may not be lamented by some of my fellow Arsenal fans, but he does score goals when his mind’s on the game. I’m also not so sure about McNulty’s argument that Arsenal’s forwards are good enough right now to fire the Gunners to a league title. They have Andrei Arshavin, but Robin van Persie and Eduardo need to stay healthy, while either Carlos Vela or Nicklas Bendtner has to take a big step forward. I suppose they might bring somebody in, but splashing the cash is not usually Arsene Wenger’s way. Who can argue with his results though! In closing, I hope Mark Hughes can figure out how to divvy up playing time amongst his countless new signings at Eastlands, because failure to do so effectively may see him run out of town almost as fast as not winning enough games.

No pressure, Mark. Really.

No pressure, Mark. Really.

The “overheated market claims” sounded even more absurd when Rafa Benitez complained upon signing Glen Johnson for over $25 million. It may just be that Liverpool are building a strong team overtime, with one or two big additions a year instead of a huge spending spree like Man City or Real Madrid. That being said, is Glen Johnson really the best choice for a top-level team’s defense? Rafa thinks so, and he has gotten some of the bigger moves he’s made right, like Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso. But I’ll respectfully disagree. Chelsea wasn’t exactly in a rush to keep him a couple of years ago.

Robert Burns has a good summary of what’s gone on across the EPL to date.

Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema

And I have little argument with Real Madrid’s big moves. Ronaldo, Kaka, and Karim Benzema went for silly money, but it’s hard to say that they aren’t signing some of the world’s very best players. Of course, off-field considerations may help– as long as they continue to be a soccer team, not a global concert tour.

So far, it seems like most other clubs are buying pretty shrewdly too. I think the global economic crisis is forcing teams to make carefully calculated decisions. It’s a few teams that truly have the money to go big right now- Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City, Real Madrid, Barcelona (although they haven’t so far), and a couple of others across Europe.

But we’ll really be judging everyone when the primary European window closes at the end of August, and then again when we see the league standings in January (midseason and the second transfer window) and of course at season’s end in May.

Busy Week

Pleased with the Yankees apparent turnaround in Atlanta and then against the Mets (or is it MASH Unit, or even David Wright and the seven dwarfs?). Congrats to Mariano Rivera on his 500th save. That’s a great achievement, but also hides what he will be remembered for- his postseason track record.

Also proud of what our national team did, despite Brazil’s second-half comeback. And of our soldiers, as they turned over control of Iraq’s cities to an Iraqi military.

Anyway, on to present matters. NBA and NHL free agents to chat about tomorrow, more so with hockey because basketball players can’t sign until next week. Ronaldo and Kaka to be officially introduced at Real Madrid… more big money signings to come?

I’ll have some thoughts on this stuff later… after dealing with my own business! Damn, the holiday weekend can’t get here soon enough. Should I go out to the beach or hit the city? Your thoughts welcome…

USA-Brazil Second Half Blog

Teams are back out, and the U.S. is set to kick-off the second half. Remember to hit “refresh” to get these updates, because I don’t think WordPress updates automatically.

46th Minute- Goal, Luis Fabiano gets Brazil off to a perfect start, nice ball into him, he turns Jay DeMerit and hits a perfect shot low past Tim Howard. Great play by Luis Fabiano, who is now on course to win the tournament’s golden boot. 2-1 U.S.

50th Minute- Donovan passes to Feilhaber, who dribbles to the goal line, and while his shot is stopped by Julio Cesar, it may have gone out before that.

52nd Minute- Donovan runs it up the field and finds Davies, but his pass to Altidore is knocked away.

53rd Minute- DeMerit is caught out of position but Feilhaber keeps the ball away from Ramires in the U.S. box long enough for Howard to grab the ball.

54th Minute- Feilhaber fouls Kaka, setting up a free kick in a dangerous position. Maicon fires in and Altidore heads away. A subsequent effort from Brazil fails to find Luis Fabiano.

56th Minute- Another foul by Feilhaber on Kaka. Free kick Brazil. It hits the wall and deflects up. Felipe Melo is flagged offside as he jousts with DeMerit for the ball.

59th Minute- Lucio gets a free header off a corner kick, but Howard reacts quickly to palm it away. Gilberto Silva gets to the follow-up but fires high under some pressure. Brazil definitely smelling blood right now.

60th Minute- Whoa! Great cross to the back post finds Kaka. His header is stopped by Howard, but Brazil screams that he and the ball were over the line. Not given, replays unclear at the moment. One replay suggests yes, another indecisive.

63rd Minute- Another Maicon corner is deflected away by Howard. Davies and Ramires scrap for the ball, and Brazil controls.

64th Minute- Some chaos in the U.S. box, but one of the assistant referees flags Brazil for something.

65th Minute- Davies dribbles forward, then passes back to Clark to ease pressure. He finds Donovan, who shoots from outside the box and Julio Cesar makes a decent save.

66th Minute- Dempsey gets a sniff of goal and Julio Cesar palms away. Daniel Alves comes on for Andre Santos. He scored on a great free kick to beat South Africa in the semifinals. Elano also checks in at the expense of Ramires. Brazil thinking offense here for sure. Quarter of the game left to play.

67th Minute- Nice play by DeMerit to beat Luis Fabiano to the ball and draw a foul. He has been really good throughout the tournament.

69th Minute- Lucio booked for arguing with referee Martin Hansson.

71st Minute- DeMerit clears away a cross, but moments later, Luis Fabiano beats everyone and the offside trap, only to see Howard come off his line and smother the ball.

72nd Minute- Davies takes on several Brazilian defenders and nearly prevails with some nice touches of the ball, but Luisao as the last man knocks it away before he can get to Julio Cesar.

74th Minute- Goal and it’s Luis Fabiano again. Robinho heads off the crossbar from a Kaka cross, and Fabiano heads home at the opposite post for his fifth of the tournament. Howard was down in trying to stop Elano and had no chance. Tied at 2. Nice burst of speed by Kaka to set it up.

76th Minute- Bob Bradley brings in Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan. Feilhaber and Altidore exit.

78th Minute- Kaka decides to shoot from long distance. Doesn’t get much on it and it rolls harmlessly wide.

79th Minute- Felipe Melo fouls and he needs to be careful because he was already booked. Good free kick from Donovan, and Julio Cesar grabs it just before Clint Dempsey can pounce.

80th Minute- Bornstein decides to shoot. He’s a bit off-balance, although the technique is good, and the ball flies wide.

82nd Minute- Robinho fires high and wide after a few moves.

84th Minute- Goal.DeMerit stops Luis Fabiano from getting a scoring chance. Elano hits a corner and from it, Brazil scores. Lucio outjumps Dempsey and has what amounts to a free header, which he doesn’t miss, firing into the lower-left corner. The players all mob Lucio but credit also to Elano for a perfect set piece. 3-2 to Brazil, and that is surely the winner. A comeback worthy of the sport’s greatest champions.

88th Minute- U.S. corner. Conor Casey on for Ricardo Clark in Bob Bradley’s last throw of the dice. Donovan puts it into the box and Onyewu gets to it but heads over the bar. In fairness, not a bad miss, as he wasn’t that close to goal.

89th Minute- Kaka tortures a U.S. defender and then fires just past the far post.

90th Minute- Dempsey stumbles in chasing down a Donovan pass, but it was probably hit too high and far for him to reach it anyway. Three minutes to be added on.

92nd Minute- Quiet injury time so far. Brazil just about keeping hold of the ball.

93rd Minute- Daniel Alves shoots high and wide. Howard restarts quickly but Brazil sweeps it away in midfield. Moments later they win a throw-in. Foul on Bocanegra and that should do it.

94th Minute- And that is it, as Martin Hansson blows the whistle right off the free kick. The Brazilian team races onto the field to celebrate a record third Confederations Cup title. Would defeat have cost Dunga his job? He will never have to find out. The U.S. can be very proud of its performance overall, even if they know they did let the game get away from them in the second half. The lessons of this tournament should serve them well going forward.

USA-Brazil First Half Blog

The FIFA Confederations Cup Final is today, and after several days of hype across the nation, the U.S. gets a rematch with Brazil and the chance to show that beating Spain wasn’t a fluke. It won’t make America a favorite for next year’s World Cup, but it would likely give the players loads of confidence to carry over the next 12 months, and make other countries pause before playing us.

2:08- U.S. players have said in the build-up that all the pressure will be on Brazil. To a certain degree, they are right, Brazil rightly should be considered the favorites to win. Nonetheless, I can’t believe they will take the U.S. quite as lightly as Spain did, even knowing how easily they won the group stage meeting.

2:17- Team sheets in, courtesy of the BBC and their always entertaining live text. But don’t stay there the whole time! Pretty please?

USA- Tim Howard (GK)
D- Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra
M- Clint Dempsey, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber, Landon Donovan
F- Charlie Davies, Jozy Altidore

So, 4-4-2 again from Bob Bradley, with Davies and Altidore paired up front. Feilhaber, a native of Brazil, replaces the suspended Michael Bradley.

Brazil- Julio Cesar (GK)
D- Maicon, Lucio, Luisao, Andre Santos
M- Ramires, Felipe Melo, Gilberto Silva, Kaka
F- Luis Fabiano, Robinho (who will probably be in more of a supporting role)

2:20- By the way, shocking news today as noted product pitchman Billy Mays died this morning in Florida. First, Farrah Fawcett, then Michael Jackson, now Billy Mays?

2:21- Teams come out onto the field with the trophy right in front of them. Dignitaries and national anthems to follow. South African president Jacob Zuma is among those greeting the players.

2:25- Beautiful recordings of the anthems, and it’s almost time to get going!

2:27- FIFA’s world feed graphic suggests Altidore will play in support of Davies at the start, just as Brazil will lineup Robinho a bit off of Luis Fabiano.

2:29- Moment of silence for Marc-Vivien Foe, who tragically died during the 2003 Confederations Cup. His son comes onto the field to speak. Very classy of FIFA.

1st Minute- Here we go!

3rd Minute- Vuvuzelas (horns) blaring as loud as ever in Johannesburg’s Ellis Park. Both teams feeling each other out, but Dempsey does take a shot from distance. A few yards wide.

6th Minute- Onyewu knocks the ball away from Kaka. Off the resulting throw-in, a defender sweeps it behind for a corner. Altidore heads Maicon’s service away but it eventually comes back to Maicon. His third try finally is deflected for another corner.

7th Minute- Kaka is at the near post but heads Robinho’s corner out of play.

9th Minute- Luis Fabiano gets a little bit of space but his shot is well over the crossbar.

10th Minute- GOAL, and it’s Clint Dempsey for the third straight match. Spector crosses from distance and Dempsey hits a half-volley into the ground but it takes a friendly hop and bounds past Julio Cesar’s dive. 1-0 U.S. Another shocker?

12th Minute- This is the first time Brazil has trailed in the tournament. Surely they will respond fiercely at some point, but when?

13th Minute- Quickly, in fact. Robinho cuts in and shoots. Howard knocks it away for a corner. Not too difficult a save though for someone like him. Brazil loses the ball off the corner and Donovan sends it to Davies who streaks up the field. Two Brazilian defenders finally clear it out for a U.S. corner near the edge of the box.

15th Minute- Header deflected for another U.S. corner. This time, Onyewu heads it down but neither he nor Dempsey can get a shot on target.

16th Minute- Ricardo Clark blocks an effort from Kaka and Spector clears. Well done defensively.

18th Minute- Donovan fires in a free-kick. Lucio couldn’t clear it, but a teammate eventually does. Brazil breaks out, and Bocanegra is the first player booked after grabbing hold of Kaka.

22nd Minute- Robinho crosses into the box but it’s headed away.

23rd Minute- A couple of nice tackles by Feilhaber to slow down Brazil. Robinho and Kaka then try a give and go which doesn’t fool either defender whom they took on.

24th Minute- Good idea from Felipe Melo. He gets the ball in midfield and tries to find Robinho on the wing. Hits it too hard though.

25th Minute- Hard low shot from Melo is saved by Howard. Smart, as the defenders were sticking to Robinho and Luis Fabiano like glue. Melo is then booked for protesting about an offside decision.

27th Minute- GOAL, what a 2-on-1 break out by the U.S. They break up a corner, Brazil turns it over, and then Davies feeds for Landon Donovan, who takes one-touch, turns Ramires, and fires to Julio Cesar’s lower-left. No chance of stopping it, and it’s 2-0 U.S. Unbelievable.

30th Minute- Andre Santos couldn’t handle a lateral pass, and it’s a U.S. throw-in. Cross whipped in and it narrowly missed Dempsey, a forward, and Julio Cesar. Wow, Brazil has as much talent as anyone in the world, but they look on edge right now.

32nd Minute- Kaka tries to build some play after a teammate clears the ball from a minor U.S. surge to the box. He eventually gets it again, plays give and go with Andre Santos, passes to Robinho, whose pass is half-cleared by Dempsey. Donovan then finishes the job and wins a throw-in to boot after it deflects off a Brazilian body.

35th Minute- Best chance for Brazil so far. Robinho makes a perfect pass to Andre Santos, whose shot from point-blank range is stopped by Howard at the near post. Robinho’s subsequent corner goes right to Luis Fabiano, but he heads over the bar.

37th Minute- Altidore breaks away from Andre Santos near the box. The Brazilian fullback has to foul him, and it results in a booking. Not to mention a free kick for Donovan. It’s cleared away firmly by Gilberto Silva.

38th Minute- Free kick opportunity for Brazil. 30 meters from goal and Felipe Melo passes to Maicon. His service into the box is tipped away by Onyewu and Davies clears to midfield.

42nd Minute- Howard gets his fingertip to a Robinho shot. Nice job getting Spector to give him some space for the shot. Subsequent corner is basically wasted.

43rd Minute- Maicon tries to catch Tim Howard napping, but his shot is just wide of the post.

45th Minute- Felipe Melo shoots from distance, which is deflected wide for a corner. This leads to a header straight into the air, which Howard catches. One minute of stoppage time. Bocanegra just deflects a cross from Maicon that was just begging to be slammed home.

Half-time– Brazil actually had more of the possession, but few quality scoring chances. The U.S. defended Kaka and Robinho extremely well, and they will have to do it again in the second half if they want to hold on. But they do have a two goal lead. Who’d have thunk it?

Unbelievable

Image Courtesy of The Guardian/Getty Images

Image Courtesy of The Guardian/Getty Images

So much for “just having fun,” eh?

4th Quarter Punts sums it up as well as anyone. Just a shocking result. Not the World Cup, but a statement win, all the same, and completely deserved, despite all the chances Spain created. Our defenders were immense, as was Tim Howard. We created maybe three good chances and converted two. So often in soccer, that can be the bottom line.

The reward is probably a rematch with Brazil, although since South Africa is hosting the Confederations Cup, you can’t entirely rule out another upset. Again, it’s all gravy since this isn’t World Cup qualifying or the Finals themselves, but if the players can ride the confidence a win like this supplies, who knows where things will end up come next June? Every fan can be proud of this moment.

One aside though, sympathies for the family and friends of prominent Iowa high school football coach Ed Thomas, who was shot dead this morning inside his school’s weight room. Four NFL lineman played under him, and he mentored countless others.