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Confederations Cup Final: USA vs. Brazil (Matchday Commentary)

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The U.S. men's national team takes on Brazil in the Confederations Cup final today (2pm, ESPN), the first international tournament final in the history of the U.S. team.

The Americans will be looking to exact some revenge on the Brazilian, who handed them a 3-0 loss in group play. Things have changed quite a bit since that match, with the United States posting wins against Egypt and Spain by a combined 5-0 margin.

I will be providing live commentary before and during today's match so you are welcome to follow the match here on SBI. As always, feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

Enjoy the match.

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FINAL– Some final questions for SBI Mafia members as I close out this post. What U.S. player impressed you the most in this tournament? Who surprised you the most? Are you feeling more confident about the U.S. team's chances in the 2010 World Cup?

Share your thoughts below. That's all for me. Thank you for following along here.

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FINAL– Brazil lifts the trophy tonight, but the U.S. national team has lifted the U.S. soccer program to a new level and the experience gained at this tournament will be invaluable heading toward the 2010 World Cup.

Seriously, think about it. Can you remember a U.S. national team that can boast the type of experience and matches and results that this current group boasts?

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FINAL– Ready to talk about who starts vs. Mexico? Nah, that can wait. Let's think about this tournament and all the impressive performances in this tournament. Seriously, think about it people. The U.S. national team didn't just win games, they played some great soccer, scored some beautiful goals and showed tremendous heart. This team helped earn the type of respect from the soccer world that hasn't existed before.

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FINAL– Clint Dempsey finishes with the Bronze Ball as third most valuable player of the tournament. Luis Fabiano won the Silver Ball and Kaka won the Golden Ball.

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FINAL– Some players really stepped up in this tournament and established themselves as key players heading toward the World Cup. Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit and Charlie Davies come away from this tournament looking like the starters the team has needed.

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FINAL- Tim Howard wins the Goalkeeper of the Tournament award. Very deserving.

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FINAL-  Tim Howard was easily the Man of the Match. He made countless clutch saves, but could do nothing on the three Brazil goals.

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FINAL– If the U.S. team went into this tournament wanting to know where it stands a year ahead of the World Cup then the Americans have to feel good about what they learned. Several key players will eventually make their way back into the mix, such as Maurice Edu, Brian Ching, Steve Cherundolo and eventually Jermaine Jones, and when you combine them, with this group, as well as some up-and-coming players who will get looks in the Gold Cup, things are looking up a year from the 2010 World Cup.

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FINAL– Kudos to Brazil, which never stopped coming despite the deficit. They kept creating, kept attacking in waves and eventually found chances to finish. Kaka, Luis Fabiano, Robinho, Maicon. These are the world's best players for a reason and they showed why today. 

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FINAL– Brazil 3, USA 2. A tough result to swallow considering the first-half 2-0 lead, but the Americans walk away from this tournament with plenty to be proud about. The team came of age here and gained a bunch of confidence. In the end Brazil just had too many weapons.

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90th minute– It's tough to think about now for U.S. fans, but this tournament is still a performance to be proud of, today's loss notwithstanding. That's if this score holds.

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90th minute– Time running out now. Any more miracles left?

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89th minute– Onyewu header high.

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88th minute– Conor Casey is on for Ricardo Clark. USA corner kick.

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87th minute– Don't see the Americans coming back from this.

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85th minute- GOAL BRAZIL!!!!!! Lucio with a header off an Elano corner kick. WIDE Open on that header, beating Dempsey. Brazil 3, USA 2

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84th minute– Brazil is knocking on the door, corner kick after a good look in the box.

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83rd minute– Bornstein with some good energy, but Kljestan with a weak pass picked off.

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82nd minute– Robinho WIDE. Brazil's just so dangerous.

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81st minute– Bornstein sends a shot wide. Needs to look for the pass there.

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79th minute– Melo fouls Donovan and is lucky not to get a second yellow.

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78th minute– Kaka beat Spector to the endline on the Brazil goal. It was bound to happen if they kept letting people run at Spector, who couldn't keep stopping them.

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76th minute– The Americans are tied and tired and you have to wonder if they have a third goal in them.

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75th minute– Robinho with the first header off the crossbar, Fabiano with the finish. Onyewu got caught sleeping.

Kljestan and Bornstein are in for Altidore and Feilhaber.

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74th minute- GOAL BRAZIL. And it's Fabiano again. A header off a rebounded shot. Brazil 2, USA 2. It was inevitable.

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74th minute– Sacha Kljestan is coming on, probably for Feilhaber.

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73rd minute– Davies wtih a dangerous run but can't beat the last man. Good moves though.

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72nd minute– Americans absorbing TOO much pressure now. They need possession and could use some fresh legs.

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71st minute– SAVE HOWARD!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOW, Stops Fabiano on a clear chance. CLUTCH

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70th minute– Altidore looks gassed.

Lucio with a yellow card for a cheap swipe at Altidore.

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66th minute– Dani Alves and Elano come in for Ramires and Andres Santos.

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66th minute– Donovan with a blast from 25 and it forces a tough save from Julio Cesar.

SAVE JULIO CESAR. DEMPSEY with a great left-footed shot.

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65th minute– USA is looking tired right now. Brazil just keeps on coming. Americans need a breather. They're getting one now with some possession.

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63rd minute– Brazil is knocking on the door here and Americans are holding up well.

Is it getting to the point where Bob Bradley has to think about substitutions?

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62nd minute– Brazil is pressing very hard now.

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61st minute– Wow, did the USA actually get a call go their way? One replace looked like that was a Kaka goal.

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60th minute– SAVE HOWARD. Stops a free Kaka header. WOW. How'd that not go in? He hits it up off the underside of the crossbar.

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59th minute– SPECTOR with ANOTHER great play. Man of the Match for my money at this point.

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59th minute– SAVE HOWARD!!! Stops a Lucio header. Wow. Clutch.

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58th minute– Brazil corner after Spector knocks the ball out from Kaka.

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57th minute– Howard runs out to catch a Maicon cross. How good is Maicon? He's the best right back in the world. That's how good.

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55th minute– Brazil awarded a free kick. Feilhaber grabbed Kaka's jersey. Dangerous.

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53rd minute– Great chance for the americans but Davies can't spot Donovan's run. That had potential. Feilhaber fouls Kaka for a Brazil free kick. Dangerous.

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52nd minute– Spector with another great play and here come the Americans, well for a second. Some nice possession though.

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50th minute– U.S. team looks to have shaken that early goal off and are attacking again.

Feilhaber wtih a nice run forward, but his cross from close range is stopped.

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49th minute– Americans must find some posssession and slow things down.

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47th minute– Fabiano's shot went through Jay DeMerit's legs and leaves Howard no chance. How will the Americans respond?

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46th minute- GOAL BRAZIL!!!!!!!! Luis Fabiano finishes and just like that, Brazil is down 2-1. WOW. What a start.

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46th minute– And we're back.

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HALFTIME– What should we expect from Brazil. I can't see how Dunga wouldn't put Pato in this match. They need a spark and he can provide that. Dani Alves is another option. I don't see Dunga standing pat. 

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HALFTIME– Stellar performances all the way around. Tim Howard has been huge, Jonathan Spector has been clutch with defending and that perfect cross, Onyewu has dominated in the air again, Dempsey and Donovan finished off clutch chances and put in major defensive work and Clark has stepped up to fill the void left by Michael Bradley's absence.

What must the Americans do better? They can't keep putting Spector on one-v-one situations with the likes of Robinho and Kaka. He has been up to the task each time so far, but that's not a formula for success over a full match. 

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HALFTIME– USA 2, Brazil 0.

Enjoy that for a second.

The Americans were applauded for playing a great game vs. Spain, but this first half has been even better. That last 45 minutes has to be one of the best halves played by an American team in USMNT history. Disciplined defending, clinical finishing, great passing. Now, they haven't been winning the possession battle in midfield, but that doesn't really matter. 

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46th minute– Whoa, Brazil gets a dangerous ball across but nobody gets to it.

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45th minute– Onyewu clears away another cross. Brazil has a minute left to find a goal before halftime.

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43rd minute– U.S. team doing very well not to foul in the final third. Forcing Brazil to make perfect passes to break them down.

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42nd minute– Onyewu heads away another Maicon cross. He's done very well yet again.

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42nd minute– Howard saves a Robinho shot, the corner is cleared. Brazil still knocking.

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41st minute– Five minutes left in this half. Americans MUST keep the pressure on.

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40th minute– Spector with a great play vs. Kaka. Well done.

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39th minute– Free kick sequence is headed clear for a USA counter. Davies runs at Brazil but his final touch lets him down.

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38th minute– Cesar catches the corner, leading to a Brazil counter. Brazil draws a foul about 45 yards out.

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37th minute– USA corner.

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36th minute– Altidore draws a foul and a DANGEROUS free kick on the right edge of the area.

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35th minute– Fabiano with a header high.

The U.S. midfield isn't getting much possession but their positioning and ability to limit Brazil passing options is big. Clark is playing very well today.

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35th minute– SAVE HOWARD!!!!!!! Clutch stop from close range. Brazil corner.

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34th minute– Americans need to keep attacking. They've exposed Brazil's back-line and will find more chances if they press.

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30th minute– Americans come close again, but no one can put a head on a Davies across.

USA is STILL attacking.

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29th minute– What a beautiful counterattack and talk about paying Brazil back with the same type of play that burned the Americans in the group stage meeting.

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28th minute– Holy Heck. The Americans are beating Brazil by two goals and has Brazil stunned right now.

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27th minute- GOAL USA!!!!!!!!!! LANDON DONOVAN FINISHEs A BEAUTIFUL SEQUENCE. WOW. USA 2, Brazil 0.

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27th minute– SAVE HOWARD. On Maicon, Brazil corner.

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25th minute– SAVE HOWARD!! Stops a Melo blast.

Melo gets a yellow afterwards, not sure for what. That could be key later.

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25th minute– The U.S. midfield is missing Michael Bradley right now. His possession isn't being replaced right now.

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23rd minute– Haven't the Americans learned their lesson about sliding tackles? This Swedish referee is actually pretty good and even-tempered from what I can remember of past matches I've seen, so we'll see if he keeps the reds in his pocket.

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21st minute– This is the first time all tournament that Brazil has trailed. How will they respond? So far, they're looking determined.

Onyewu with a clutch header to clear danger.

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20th minute– Brazil with some possession and has a pair of shots blocked. They're knocking on the door.

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18th minute– Great ball in from Doovan but nobody is there.

Bocanegra gets a yellow card for a foul on Kaka.

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18th minute– Clark doing well early on. Altidore draws a foul.

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17th minute– Not that Brazil wasn't going to attack, only now the U.S. team has to look for chances to catch Brazil on the counter as they send numbers forward.

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16th minute– Clark does well to block a shot. Brazil is going to bring the attacking numbers now so this should be an entertaining match the rest of the way.

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14th minute– USA is pressing for a second. Corner kicks come close to creating a chance. Brazil is shaken.

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13th minute– Davies on the break, gets held up, forces a corner. Nice sequence.

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13th minute– SAVE HOWARD!!!!!! BIG stop on a Robinho shot.

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12th minute– On one replay it almost looks as if the cross catches Dempsey in the knee and he whiffed on the shot attempt. No matter how it goes in, that's a huge goal.

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11th minute– Spector with a great cross in and Dempsey gets a slight volleyed touch on it to send it just inside the far post. WHAT A FINISH and what a cross.

Dempsey with a tribute to Michael Jackson dues the leg kick. Nice touch.

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10th minute- GOAL USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DEMPSEY WITH THE FINISH> WOWWWW

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9th minute– Brazil controlling the game early. Clark and Feilhaber need to start winning more possession. Dempsy has been very active early, but that's it really for the USA.

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8th minute– Brazil with some early possession. USA needs to start finding the ball and holding on to it. No Feilhaber sighting yet.

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7th minute– Kaka flashes for a header but sends it wide.

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7th minute– Brazil corner.

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5th minute– Onyewu steps up well to stop a Brazil challenge.

DeMerit heads a cross out, Brazil corner.

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3rd minute– Dempsey tries one from distance but it's a bit weak. Julio Cesar is in great form these days and the Americans will need great accuracy to beat him.

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2nd minute– Brazil with some early possession. Clark with some good early touches.

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1st Minute– We are underway. 

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PRE-GAME– The Americans need to control their nerves and play a smart and disciplined match and first 15 minutes.

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PRE-GAME– A tribute to Marc Vivien-Foe who died in the 2003 Confederations Cup. His son gives a touching speech. Can't believe it has been six years already.

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PRE-GAME– Which big-game player will step up for the Americans today? Altidore or Dempsey? Both are known for scoring goals in big games. Can they do it again?

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PRE-GAME– Does anybody know who invented the Vuvuzela? Whoever it needs to be put in jail. Or at least forced to be locked in a room and listen to those horns for 24 hours straight.

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PRE-GAME– It's almost time for kickoff.

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PRE-GAME– For the second time (at least) Ricardo Clark can't avoid staring into the camera. It's like he's in an episode of The Office anytime a camera's around him.

Americans look poised and serious.

Brazilian anthem, still one of the better anthems. Why? No idea, just is. Maybe because I'm used to watching good soccer after hearing it.

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PRE-GAME– Okay, so many USA fans are watching this match at bars (and stadiums), but many of you are watching at home and/or in front of your computers. If you plan on following the commentary on SBI today let me know you're here and where you're checking in from.

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PRE-GAME– SOmeone else who could boost their value today is Bob Bradley. If he leads the United States to a Confederations Cup title, we can start thinking about an American head coach who European clubs could go after following the 2010 World Cup.

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PRE-GAME- The teams are in the tunnel. Excited yet?

Okay, let's get some drinking game suggestions. 

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PRE-GAME– Along with having a chance to win the United States' first international trophy, today's match is a chance for several American players to make some serious money by upping their transfer values. Onyewu, DeMerit, Clark, Donovan, Altidore and Davies have all helped boost their value in this tournament and all could be looking at big summer moves thanks to Confederations Cup performances.

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PRE-GAME– Brazil and the United States faced each other just a month after that 2003 Confederations Cup match, in a Gold Cup semifinal in Miami. It was July 23, 2003 and it is easy to forget that the Americans nearly pulled off the upset on that day only to have an 89th-minute equalizer from a young standout named Kaka force overtime. Diego converted a penalty in overtime after a Cory Gibbs foul in the penalty area to give Brazil the win and a place in the 2003 Gold Cup final (where they lost to Mexico in Mexico City).

Here was the USA lineup on that day:

———–Landon Donovan——Clint Mathis——————–

Eddie Lewis————Claudio Reyna———–Earnie Stewart

————————Pablo Mastroeni————————–

Bobby Convey—-Bocanegra——Gibbs——-Frankie Hejduk

——————————-Keller—————————–

Carlos Bocanegra scored the U.S. goal that day, heading home a perfect long pass from Reyna. Brian McBride replaced Mathis just 30 minutes into this match. Richard Mulrooney and Beasley also played as subs.

Coincidentally, Brazil has four players starting today who played in that match. Kaka, Robinho, Maicon and Luisao.

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PRE-GAME– Since we went back in time to reveal that 1998 USA lineup that beat Brazil, it would only be fair to look at the 2003 Confederations Cup squad that lost to Brazil, 1-0, on June 21, 2003:

———–Landon Donovan——Clint Mathis————-

Beasley—————-Earnie Stewart—————Chris Klein

————————Pablo Mastroeni————————–

Cory Gibbs—-Bocanegra——Gregg Berhalter—Cherundolo

————————–Tim Howard—————————–

Bobby Convey replaced Gibbs, Taylor Twellman replaced Mastroeni and Eddie Lewis replaced Chris Klein as subs that day.

For those who don't remember, Tim Howard played a solid game in goal and only an Adriano goal on a breakaway after a Berhalter turnover kept the USA from scoring at least a draw that day.

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PRE-GAME– Keys to the game today for the U.S. team?

  • Clean defending in the final third (ie, NO FREE KICKS 30 yards and in).

  • Keep bodies around Kaka, Brazil's lead playmaker.

  • Be smart with the ball (as in no unforced turnovers to spark Brazil counterattacks)

  • Feed Donovan and Dempsey the ball early and often (and let them create and go at Brazil's defense, which can be beaten).

There are plenty of other things the U.S. team needs to focus on and do well today, these are just some that came to mind.

The Americans will miss Michael Bradley today, especially with regard to dealing with Kaka. On top of having a tireless work ethic and impressive work rate, Bradley reads the game well and keeps himself in good positions to help neutralize opposing team's top playmakers. It will be up to Clark and Feilhaber to not give Kaka too much space and a chance to run at the U.S. defense.

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PRE-GAME– Speaking of Larrionda, I can't help but wonder where he stacks up in the pantheon of referees most hated by U.S. national team fans. Let's have a quick vote:

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PRE-GAME– Regarding the Bradley-Larrionda post-game confrontation story, what I've heard is that Bradley directed some comments toward Larrionda after the match but that reports that he had to be restrained and kept from attacking Larrionda are grossly inaccurate.

Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl has confirmed that FIFA is investigating the matter. What that means exactly remains to be seen, but at the very least it appears that any potential suspension would not affect Bradley's availability vs. Mexico on Aug. 12.)

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PRE-GAME– The only difference between this Brazil lineup and the one that beat USA 3-0 is giant centerback Luisao starts in place of Miranda. 

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PRE-GAME– Here is Brazil's lineup:

———-Robinho———Fabiano————-

—–Kaka————————–Ramires—–

——–Felipe Melo——Gilberto Silva——–

Santos—–Lucio———-Luisao——-Maicon

——————Julio Cesar——————–

No surprises from Dunga and the Brazilians either.

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PRE-GAME– Here is the USA Lineup (according to FIFA):

————–Altidore———–Davies————-

Donovan———————————-Dempsey

—————-Clark——–Feilhaber————–

Bocanegra—-Onyewu—–DeMerit——-Spector

———————-Howard————————

Yep, it's the lineup we were all expecting (and most were praying for).

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PRE-GAME– We can start dissecting the match as soon as the lineups are revealed. For now, let's discuss favorite Michael Jackson songs. Just kidding.

If you're Brazil do you start Maicon, Dani Alves or both?

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PRE-GAME– What did you think of that '98 lineup? Find it funny that three of the four starting defenders either are or were MLS general manager/technical directors? Eddie Pope can't feel too left out. He now works for the MLS Players Union.

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PRE-GAME– Waiting on lineups, any minute now.

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PRE-GAME– Thanks to BB for reminding me that Landon Donovan and Lucio were just teammates four months ago during Donovan's brief loan with Bayern Munich? How could I forget that? Admit it, you forgot (or erased that from your memory) too.

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PRE-GAME– As you have surely heard by now, the U.S. national team boasts one win vs. Brazil all-time, that win came on Feb. 10, 1998 in a game forever remembered for Kasey Keller's amazing performance and Preki's game-winning goal. Have you been left wondering who was in the lineup that day for the United States? Wonder no more:

—————-Eric Wynalda——–Joe-Max Moore—————

Cobi Jones——John Harkes—Roy Wegerle—-Frankie Hejduk

Jeff Agoos——Eddie Pope——Alexi Lalas——–Mike Burns

—————————Kasey Keller—————————–

Preki replaced Wegerle and Brian McBride replaced Wynalda on that day.

And yes, both John Harkes and Alexi Lalas were in the starting lineup that day. So you will hear at least 1,000 anectdotes about that match on the ESPN broadcast (as you should).

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PRE-GAME– Answers? For the first part, the answer is Freddy Adu and Luisao. That was a bit of a trick question because some of you may have thought it was Adu and Ramires. The Ramires transfer to Benfica doesn't take effect until the opening of the transfer window, on July 1st.

The second part actually has two three answers: Tim Howard and Kleberson AND DaMarcus Beasley and Heurelho Gomes. Howard and Kleberson were teammates with Manchester United from 2003 to 2005. They came in together in the same Manchester United transfer class that included some kid named Cristiano Ronaldo. Beasley and Gomes were teammates with PSV Eindhoven during Beasley's entire three-year stint at PSV from 2004 to 2007. Lastly, Landon Donovan and Lucio were teammates for three months at Bayern Munich this past winter during Donovan's brief loan spell.

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PRE-GAME– Pop Quiz: Who are the only current set of club teammates who will stand opposed to each other in the Brazil-USA final? And a Part Two: Aside from the aforementioned set of club teammates, who are the only other American and Brazilian players to have been club teammates before?

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PRE-GAME– Pop Quiz answer: Clint Dempsey. Okay, so that wasn't THAT tough a question. I just found it very interesting as I was looking back at some results. Dempsey has scored goals against Brazil, Spain and England AND has scored in a World Cup. Not bad. 

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PRE-GAME– In case you missed it, here is a USSoccer.com interview with Benny Feilhaber.

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PRE-GAME– Pop Quiz: Who is the only player in U.S. national team history to score goals against Brazil, England and Spain?

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PRE-GAME– No, we don't have the lineups yet, so no, we don't know for sure that Feilhaber is starting, but it seems like a safe bet. That said, don't be surprised if the starting lineup isn't the starting XI we've all assumed it would be. It has been a long tournament and fatigue could play a part in Bob Bradley's final lineup decisions.

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PRE-GAME– The answer to the quiz question? July 2, 2007 vs. Paraguay in Copa America. That was the last time Benny Feilhaber and Ricardo Clark started together in the U.S. lineup in central midfield. That summer saw Feilhaber and Clark start together three times, the only three games they have ever started together with the national team. They started in a 2-0 Gold Cup win vs. Trinidad & Tobago, a 4-1 loss to Argentina and 3-1 loss to Paraguay in Copa America. Clark scored the lone goal in that Paraguay match.

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PRE-GAME– I'll come back to the quiz later.

For now, let's take a look at Brazil. You all know about Kaka, Robino, Julio Cesar, Maicon and Dani Alves, established European-based mega-stars. The team's rising stars are Felipe Melo and Ramires. Melo has been the best defensive midfielder in the tournament and is set to make a big-money move away from Fiorentina this summer. Ramires is a young midfielder who recently made a $10.5 million move to Benfica.

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PRE-GAME– Pop quiz: When was the last time Benny Feilhaber and Ricardo Clark started together in central midfield for the U.S. national team?

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PRE-GAME– We are still more than two hours away from today's final but it's never too early to start talking about the match, especially a match as big as tonight's. I will bring you the starting lineups as soon as they become available.

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PRE-GAME– Swedish referee Martin Hannson is the referee today. He has no history of issuing red cards to U.S. national team players, so that's an upgrade.

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