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A Victory in a Tie
"A lot of teams would lose their composure and use it as an excuse for not winning on the day or losing," Arena said. "Our guys played with a lot of heart and certainly redeemed ourselves."
Playing with more urgency and effectiveness than they did in their opener, the Americans set a nice early pace. Italy, however, wasn't flustered and patiently waited for an opportunity to strike. It came in the 22nd minute.
From 25 yards, dead-ball specialist Andrea Pirlo served a free kick deep into the box. Gilardino delayed his run, then slipped in unmarked for a lunging six-yarder past the defenseless Keller.
The equalizer came in the 27th off a set piece, a Bobby Convey free kick from near the right sideline. His looping effort toward the far post was dangerous but manageable for the Italians, but defender Cristian Zaccardo flailed at it with his left foot and spun the ball into the corner of his net. It wasn't the creative gem for which the American attack had been searching the last game and a half, but it got them even.
Soon, the game turned in their favor in a bloody incident at midfield. McBride, who has a long history of concussions and fractured cheekbones, took a blow under the eye from de Rossi. As blood poured down McBride's face, Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda reached for his red card and sent off de Rossi.
In a matter of moments, the tenor of the match had changed dramatically.
"I thought, 'What a great two minutes for U.S. soccer there -- we had an own goal and a red card,' " said defender Jimmy Conrad, who made his World Cup debut by replacing Convey in the 51st minute. "That's the break we needed. It felt like a nice 2002 moment [when the Americans reached the quarterfinals] and kind of shifted the momentum.
"And then we did a good job of giving it right back -- or actually the referee gave it right back."
Mastroeni was tossed just before the break, Pope just after it.
However, Keller came to the rescue in the 73rd minute with a remarkable reflex save on Alessandro del Piero's running toe volley and then thwarted del Piero again on a long bid six minutes later.
"If we had lost this game," Keller said, "I would have thrown up."
The Italians kept coming, driving in crosses and touching passes in and around the box as the Americans chased the play in desperation. The ball took wild bounces off players and shots skipped wide of both U.S. posts.
"Pablo and I were in the locker room, thinking, 'Let's just get a point, let's just get a point,' " Pope said. "We were jumping up and down going crazy. It was actually a good night for us because no one expected us to do anything. Now we have something to look forward to."