This win almost made me pull out the thesaurus for the proper word to describe it. Stunning? Yes. Unbelievable? Pretty close. Deserved? You bet.
However you want to term it, this was a rare, great night when everything turned up roses for the U.S. -- well, until a harsh red card on Michael Bradley in the 85th minute.
Is it the best win in the history of U.S. soccer? Hard to say. It certainly rates very near the top, with the only mitigating factor being that it was only in the Confederations Cup. It's right there with the famous 3-2 upset of Portugal at the 2002 World Cup and 1-0 win over Brazil at the 1998 Gold Cup semifinals. (The famous 1-0 win over England at the 1950 World Cup probably should be classified on its own since so much has changed since that match sepia-toned in Brazil.)
From the opening whistle, the U.S. showed absolutely no signs of the team that coughed up a 1-0 halftime lead to lose to Italy 3-1 or the team that was run off the field 3-0 by Brazil.
The U.S. stuck with two forwards -- Jozy Altidore and Charlies Davies -- and came out playing soccer. They weren't afraid of Spain, or it's 15-game winning streak. The U.S., and especially Landon Donovan, took it right to Spain in the first 10 minutes.
Coach Bob Bradley went with essentially the same lineup that defeated Egypt 3-0 on Sunday, except moving captain Carlos Bocanegra back into the team at left back and benching Jonathon Bornstein. He also reinserted Tim Howard for Brad Guzan in net.
In the 27th minute, the U.S. broke through when Altidore collected a pass from Clint Dempsey, turned around Spain defender Joan Capdevila and ripped a shot that hit off keeper Iker Casillas's hands and off the left post and into the net. A week ago, that shot would have went out for a corner, but Wednesday everything went the right way for the U.S.
Up a goal, the Americans braced for a Spanish onslaught, which came fast and furious for the rest of the match.
However, no matter what Spain tried, either a slew of players in white shirts were there to throw themselves at the shot, and if that didn't work Howard was there to make the save. More than once Howard went out at full stretch to deny Spain's top-class striker David Villa. He also made a great save with his foot to deny a pretty one-two to himself played by Fernando Torres.
Even with the mounting Spanish pressure it was not going to be La Roja's day.
That was evident in the 74th minute when Donovan appeared to have made a mistake by laying off a ball inside the Spain box instead of taking a shot. It rolled past the goal mouth and by Sergio Ramos, who whiffed on a clearance, right to Clint Dempsey at the back post, who poked it into the net for perhaps the most unlikely goal in recent U.S. international history.
The U.S. dug in for the final 15 minutes and weathered the storm without, as hard as it to believe, too many nervy moments. Spain simply had no answer for the eight or nine U.S. players packed inside the box. No matter what Spain threw forward, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit or the rest of the U.S. defense were there to get a head, a foot or anything on the ball and clear it away.
The only sour moment for the U.S. came when Bradley was sent off for a two-foot slide tackle in the final minutes. He will miss the final on Sunday against the winner of Thursday's Brazil-South Africa match.
Scanning around the Inter-webs quickly after the match, there seems to be another word bandied about regarding the U.S. win -- miracle. I'd tend to agree with them, except it wasn't a lucky bounce or anything of that nature.
Instead, the U.S. came out and played and completely deserved what they accomplished. The result, yes, might seem like a miracle in light of the first two games of the Confederations Cup. But watching how committed the U.S. played, calling it a miracle would diminish the Herculean effort all 11 men put forth to reach their first FIFA tournament final.