- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2009

— On the verge of elimination and facing long odds, the United States came up with its best performance at a major international tournament in seven years and an improbable semifinal berth at the Confederations Cup.

Charlie Davies scored in the first half, and Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey added goals in the final half hour to lead the United States over Egypt 3-0 on Sunday.

The United States needed to win by three goals and have Italy lose by three, and that’s exactly what happened.

“Big surprise, but we knew we were capable of this, and Brazil helped us out as well,” Landon Donovan said. “Now we have a difficult game ahead of us and a very big match.”

Combined with Brazil’s 3-0 defeat of world champion Italy, the United States finished second in Group B and will face European champion Spain on Wednesday, a day before Brazil (3-0) meets host South Africa.

While the United States, Italy and Egypt all finished at 1-2, the Americans scored four goals and allowed six. Italy also had a minus-2 goal difference but scored only three goals, and Egypt was minus-3.

The United States had opened with a 3-1 loss to Italy and a 3-0 loss to Brazil, moving to the brink of elimination for its fourth straight international tournament. Egypt, meanwhile, was coming off a 1-0 upset of the Azzurri.

And since advancing to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, the U.S. team had been knocked out of the first round of the 2003 Confederations Cup, the 2006 World Cup and the 2007 Copa America.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley made three changes, inserting backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan, midfielder Ricardo Clark and Davies, a forward from Manchester, N.H., who turns 23 on Thursday.

Davies scored in the 21st minute following a U.S. throw-in. Goalkeeper Essam El Hadary made the save as defender Ahmed Fathi kneed him in the head, and Davies got the rebound and kicked it in off the goalkeeper for his second international goal since his debut against China in June 2007. Davies’ previous international goal was in a 2-1 loss at Trinidad in a World Cup qualifier in October.

El Hadary remained down for about four minutes, and bandaging was wrapped around his head to stop bleeding before play resumed. The goal was the first for the Americans in the tournament - and only their second in five games - from the run of play.

Bradley, the son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley, scored on Father’s Day for the second straight year, connecting off a give-and-go with Donovan in the 63rd minute. It was his sixth goal in 33 appearances.

Dempsey scored the goal that put the United States over the top eight minutes later, taking a long cross from Jonathan Spector, outjumping defender Wael Gomaa and beating El Hadary with a diving header. It ended a career-high eight-game goalless streak for Dempsey with the national team, the longest of his international career.

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