US 1, Italy 1 (36 minutes)

Much as I’m encouraged by the United States’ play through the first half — particularly from what we’ve seen from Clint Dempsey, Bobby Convey, Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie don’t-get-sent-off Pope, the man advantage afforded by Daniele De Rossi’s elbow to the skull of Fulham’s Brian McBride can’t be underestimated.

If only U.S. Soccer hadn’t been so cheap and taken my expert advice to hire Ric Flair as their blading consultant, they might already be playing 11-on-8.

(UPDATE : Mastroeni was dismissed after cutting down Italy’s Andrea Pirlo prior to intermission. Marcelo Balboa seems to think this is a travesty of justice, but there are barbers all over the globe who say the same thing everytime he appears on a television screen).

(UPDATE DOS : Eddie Pope’s late tackle on Luca Toni results in the U.S. defender’s 2nd yellow card, and in the parlance of Michael Kay, “see ya.” There have been predictable howls of outrage from Balboa and ESPN’s studio chimps over the officiating, but when the offender in question is one foul away from being sent to the showers, well, Pope has to accept some responsibility, too. The U.S. is down to 9 men and there’s no truth to the rumor that if they can finish the match with more than 6, Bruce Arena gets a bonus from the Bank Of Angola).

(UPDATE FROM WAY DOWNTOWN : A 65th minute DeMarcus Beasley goal — apparently, he wasn’t sent home — was disallowed due to uh, McBride squatting right in front of Buffon with no defenders between the two of them. I’ve seen more egregious cases of offside ignored, but them’s the breaks. The Guardian’s Rob Smyth says “it was a talking dwarf and some gentle erotica away from being a David Lynch film,” and aside from having a discenable begining, middle and end, he might be right.  3 points against Ghana next Thursday and an Italy win over the Czech Republic, and the U.S. will have the dubious pleasure (probably) of being throttled by Brazil in the round of 16).