In a game which saw three players sent off -- two from the United States -- the USA managed a 1-1 tie against Italy on Saturday night. A diving header by Alberto Gilardino off a free kick found the back of the net in the 23rd minute to open the scoring.
Italian defender Cristian Zaccardo proved unlucky when trying to clear a US free kick in the 27th minute. Trying to clear the cross with his left foot, the ball ricocheted into the Italian net for an own goal which accounted for the only other goal of the match.
Facing elimination after its opening match loss to Czech Republic, USA proved overzealous in Kaiserslautern with Pablo Mastroeni seeing red following a clumsy, two-footed tackle on Andrea Pirlo. Shortly after the halftime break, Eddie Pope challenged from behind for his second yellow off the match and had to leave the field.
"It was very difficult for us," US captain Claudio Reyna said. "We gave everything, but it was difficult after the second red card against Pope. We gave everything at the end to get a point."
Italy's Daniele De Rossi was sent off in the 28th minute after delivering an elbow to the side of Brian McBride's head, forcing the American forward briefly to the sidelines with blood streaming down his face. It was only the third time in the history of the World Cup that three players were sent off. All of the red cards handed out by Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda were justified and he maintained control of the match despite the at times violent play.
The tie means that Italy maintains its position on the top of Group E with four points ahead of Ghana and Czech Republic, each with three points after Ghana defeated the Czechs 2-0 earlier on Saturday. The Americans have a single point after the tie, but no team is yet eliminated from the next round. The Azzurris extended their unbeaten streak to 20 games.
As the game started, there was little indication that it would descend into little more than a slug fest. The Americans started aggressively, making a number of quick runs down both wings in the opening minutes. Clint Dempsey came up with the best early chance for the Americans with a shot just wide from 18 meters in the 18th minute.
Italy could manage no clear chances until a Mastroeni foul led to the Italian free kick and goal. But after the red card on De Rossi, Italy picked up the pace and had a goal called back by Gennaro Ivan Gattuso shortly after he was subbed in for Francesco Totti in the 35th minute.
Mastroeni's shot from distance sailed just over the Italian cross bar just before half.
Despite USA playing most of the second half with just nine men following Pope's red in the 47th minute, Italy was unable to mount more than a few convincing attacks in the second frame, though American keeper Casey Keller was tested by Del Piero in the in the 73rd minute. Another Del Piero shot was blocked by the three-time American player of the year just minutes later.
The Americans continued to fight up front and a goal by DaMarco Beasley in the 65th minute was called back because McBride was standing off sides. But the Americans began to tire with 15 minutes left and the Italians had the upper hand at the close. But their attacks were uncoordinated and their only real chance in the closing phases came out of a scrum in front of Keller's goal with just minutes left. Vicenzo Iaquinta booted the ball high and wide.
"Everything was going against us today," said Keller, who was named Man of the Match. "There were some interesting decisions by the referee."