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US ready to compete with world elite

THE United States showed it was capable of competing with soccer's elite teams.

After stunning European champion Spain 2-0 in the semifinals, the Americans' were in a position to do the same to five-time world champion Brazil in the final.

"We've shown we can play with these teams. Sometimes that shows for a lot, like in the semifinals, and sometimes that counts for little, like tonight," goalkeeper Tim Howard said after the first FIFA final for the Americans.

"We can compete, we fight, we can score goals, we defend really well. We just need to start getting the small, little things right.

"If you look at Brazil, Italy, Spain, they got 11 guys who do a lot of the little things right for 90 minutes, and that creates a heck of a problem. We need to get better at that," Howard said.

Fortunately for the Americans, time is on their side. The US was the youngest team at this tournament, with an average age of just under 25. "I hope we do well for the next five or 10 years. We have a young team," said Howard, at 30 one of the squad's veterans.

After opening with losses to World Cup holder Italy and Brazil - both times ending with 10 men - the US squeaked through to the semifinals with a 3-0 win over Egypt in its final group game. The semifinal win over top-ranked Spain will go down as one of the Americans' greatest victories.

Jozy Altidore, a 19-year-old forward, used his immense physical strength to score the opening goal and Clint Dempsey sealed the victory.

Combined with the emerging Charlie Davies and the talented Landon Donovan, at 27, the Americans showed a poise in attack that it has lacked for years.

Perhaps the strongest area for the Americans was in defense.

When captain Carlos Bocanegra missed the entire group stage with a minor injury, Jay DeMerit filled in alongside the team's top stopper Oguchi Onyewu.

Bocanegra showed his versatility by moving to left back for the final two games.

Howard himself outplayed rivals to earn the tournament's best goalkeeper award.


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