Horrible Refereeing Costs USA the Chance to Record Victory Over Italy; Rapids' Mastroeni Feels Brunt

KAISERSLAUTERN (From Rapids.com and AP Reports) - Despite the worst refereeing seen yet in the 2006 World Cup Team USA managed to hold on to a 1-1 draw and earn a valuable point against Italy today.

The Americans dominated the game from the get-go having much of the posession and better chances of the night through the first half. However it wasn't until 2 very questionable red cards were issued to the Americans that the US was forced to retreat into a more defensive game for the rest of the match.

Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda who has reportedly faced suspension in the past for questionable decisions was the man responsible for all the controversy that occurred during the match and is sure to draw the attention of FIFA after today's display of shocking decisions on the pitch.

The three red cards he issued equaled a World Cup finals record. There have been three dismissals on three other occasions: in 1938 Brazil v Czechoslovakia 1954 Brazil v Hungary and 1998 Denmark v South Africa.

Frustrated U.S. coach Bruce Arena stated: "Two red cards in the space of five minutes is pretty harsh and I respect the team for the way they dealt with it."

In truth a draw was the least a USA performance full of brim and vigor deserved as they harried the more skilful Italians from start to finish.

With thousands of fans in red white and blue cheering the United States on a warm night the Americans hung on while playing most of the second half at a man disadvantage to gain their first World Cup point in Europe.

U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller saved the Americans with a pair of point-blank stops on Alessandro Del Piero in the final 20 minutes.

"We gave everything but it was difficult after the second red card captain Claudio Reyna said. "We gave everything at the end to get a point."

The American team harshly criticized for lackluster and nervous play in their opener went to a corner of the field after the final whistle to salute their fans at Fritz-Walter-Stadion a group that was roughly equal in size to supporters of the famous Azzurri a three-time World Cup champion.

Italy (1-0-1) leads Group E with four points one ahead of the Czechs and Ghana (both 1-1) and three ahead of the Americans (0-0-1).

The United States seemingly deflated after a 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic now finds itself with a chance to advance to the second round if it beats Ghana on Thursday in its final first-round game.

For the United States to reach the round of 16 it must win coupled with an Italian victory over the Czechs or there would have to be an Italy-Czech tie along with a U.S. victory by a margin of several goals.

"It's very simple we have to win Reyna said. "We have a super chance now."

The draw marked a milestone in the history of U.S. soccer. The Americans were 0-8 in World Cup games played in Europe and they had never gotten as much as a single point in Europe in any match against the big five nations of Italy England Germany Spain and France.

By the end players were exhausted from running in the wide-open space left by the ejections of Americans Eddie Pope and Pablo Mastroeni and Italian Daniele De Rossi. The United States which brought on Jimmy Conrad after Pope was sent off ended the game in a formation of four defenders three midfielders and one forward while the Azzurri used three forwards to apply pressure.

But thanks greatly to Keller the Americans didn't buckle.

Alberto Gilardino put Italy ahead in the 22nd minute. The Americans tied the score in the 27th when a U.S. free kick was knocked into the net by defender Cristian Zaccardo who was trying to clear the ball before it reached Brian McBride.

The departures began a minute later.

De Rossi received a red card from Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda for elbowing McBride in the face a vicious foul that left McBride bloody. De Rossi was immediately sent off for the most blatant foul yet in the tournament. However McBride valiantly came back into the match only moments later after getting a quick stich-up job on the sideline.

But the sides evened out in the 45th when American midfielder and Colorado Rapids Team Captain Pablo Mastroeni was ejected for a sliding takedown against Andrea Pirlo cleating the midfielder's ankle. The call was questionable at best and American fans watching all over the country reacted in disbelief as Mastroeni was shown a red card for a seemingly standard-issue tackle.

Pope was the next to go. He received a yellow card in the 11th minute for a foul on Gilardino then was ejected in the second minute of the second half for sliding into Gilardino. Even though he touched the ball first Larrionda didn't hesitate to show Pope a second yellow then the red card.

USA Manager Bruce Arena epitomized the feelings of Americans around the globe as he threw up his hands in disbelief at the referee's series of incredible calls.

For a few brief seconds it appeared the United States had gone ahead in the 70th minute when second-half sub DaMarcus Beasley slotted the ball in off goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. But with U.S. coach Bruce Arena pumping an arm on the sideline the whistle blew for an offside call on McBride who had obstructed Buffon's view on the play.

Keller then made the save of the night jumping to his right to punch away a short shot by a wide-open Del Piero who had gotten a flick from Pirlo. Keller made another outstanding stop on Del Piero in the 79th.

American defender Carlos Bocanegra nearly gave Italy a goal in the second half putting a clearance attempt just over the U.S. crossbar.

Pope and Mastroeni will miss the game with Ghana which takes place this Thursday morning at 7:00am MT. Join other American fans at Fado Irish Pub for the Official Colorado Rapids USA Viewing Party to watch this game live with passionate fans and with great Colorado Rapids giveaways!