Bryan Armen Graham
Thursday June 25th, 2009

FULLTIME: It is finished. Spain's 35-match unbeaten streak ends on a frigid night in Bloemfontein, where the United States men's national team has engineered an improbable 2-0 upset of the reigning European champions.

Goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey have given the United States its most improbable upset since tipping England in the 1950 World Cup.

They've named Dempsey the Man of the Match -- though SI.com's choice is Jay DeMerit, whose tireless work and cagey defending helped short-circuit one Spanish offensive after another after another.

I'll be chatting about today's upset on Twitter (@armenarmen). Make sure to join in the discussion by including the hashtag #USMNT in your tweets.

92': The U.S. players on the bench are starting to sense it, standing up and milling around restlessly.

91': Feilhaber's scrappy tackle interrupts yet another Spanish assault. Just two minutes between the U.S. and this generation's signature victory.

90': Into the last minute of regulation and the Americans' Conor Casey attempting to keep the ball away from the Spanish in the last third. There will be three minutes of stoppage time. Can the U.S. hold on for the impossible victory?

87': Bradley makes the third and final allotted sub: Jonathan Bornstein in for Dempsey.

86': You didn't think it was going to be that easy, did you? Michael Bradley's challenge earns him a straight red card from Jorge Larrionda. If the U.S. can hold on for the victory, Bradley won't be available for Sunday's final. Either way, the U.S. will be undermanned for the last four-plus minutes of regulation time as they attempt to weather Spain's last-gasp attack.

85': Another corner for Spain: its 16th. Puyol takes it quickly but the Americans intercept and move to counter.

83': Spain pulling out all the stops in a frenetic attempt to get on the board but have yet to find the mark. Conor Casey into the game for Altidore, Bradley's second sub.

82': More attractive soccer from Spain, who string together a pretty sequence of passes to set up yet another chance -- but can't quite finish. The U.S. reclaim possession and attempt to organize.

79': Another clumsy touch gives Spain a gift possession. They've put 17 shots on goal -- to just eight for the U.S. -- but the Americans still nurse a 2-0 edge.

78': Spain's second sub: Juan Manuel Mata in for Albert Riera.

74': GOAL, United States! It's Clint Dempsey who doubles the Americans' pleasure with strike from five yards. Credit Benny Feilhaber for the patient set-up, carrying the ball into the teeth of the Spanish defense before dropping a pass to Donovan, whose cross was deflected to Dempsey's foot.

73': DeMerit continues to make his play for Man of the Match, breaking up another likely Torres chance with a timely tackle.

71': Clark's shot attempt from distace gets deflected. The U.S. recovers possession but Donovan's long cross misses the mark and Spain reclaims the ball.

69': Bob Bradley answers with a tactical sub of his own, putting Benny Feilhaber into the game for Charlie Davies.

68': Spanish manager Vicente del Bosque makes the first substitution for the game, inserting Santi Cazorla for Cesc Febregas.

65': A long cross skates through to Sergio Ramos, who directs a hard strike on net -- but Ricardo Clark arrives in time and throws his body into the line of fire. Gritty play.

64': Seems only a matter of time before Spain equalizes. They're bombarding Howard with shot after shot. The Americans look completely out of gas with almost a half-hour remaining.

63': More heroic defending from the U.S.: This time it's DeMerit subverting a Spanish counterattack with a slide tackle pushing the ball out of bounds.

61': Carles Puyol brings down Altidore in the box while the 19-year-old attempts to corral a beautiful through pass. No whistle -- but it would have been difficult for Altidore to direct it on net anyway.

59': Sergio Ramos smashes an entry pass off Bocanegra, winning another corner for Spain -- already its 11th of the match. The Spanish looking more and more emboldened at the hour mark.

58': The U.S. wins its third corner of the day but can't generate a chance off Donovan's offering. Spain calmly moves downfield and sets up their attack.

56': Another David Villa shot is deflected by Spector and scooped up by Howard. This current flow is untenable for the U.S.: something's got to give. They're giving Spain far too many chances to equalize.

54': The U.S. squanders their best chance of the half when a Davies cross into the box sails too far. Spain, quick on the counter, threatens again. The fatigued Americans are giving the vaunted Spanish midfielders far too much open space in the middle third to operate.

51': More pressure from the Spanish. More danger for the U.S., with Spain winning another corner. Yet another David Villa shot -- he didn't strike it cleanly -- lands in Howard's gloves.

50': Spain continuing the turn of the screw, organizing an attack from 40 yards out. Xabi Alonso floats a long pass into the area for Torres -- but he can't corral it and the U.S. clears.

48': Three rapid-fire attempts in 60 seconds for Spain: from David Villa, Torres and Xabi Alonso. The first two require Howard to make difficult saves -- but the Everton keeper answers the call.

47': The U.S. wins a corner and Donovan's offering finds the head of Dempsey, who knocks it high over the crossbar.

46': We're under way in the second half, with the U.S. off to a fine start with possession in the final third. The Americans appeared to tire near the end of the first half. How much will fatigue be a factor?

HALFTIME: Who'd have thunk it? Yes, the Americans have dodged one Spanish bullet after another -- with Howard repelling five shots on target. But they've staked this 1-0 lead on merit, applying pressure on the European champions, meeting the challenge and refusing to back down. Altidore's 27th-minute strike was a very American goal, a product of physicality and will.

45': The U.S. and Spain spend two minutes jockeying for possession along the sideline. Fernando Torres burns Bocanegra, carries the ball into the box with his blistering pace and creates a beautiful chance by himself -- but Howard comes through with a huge save. There's going to be one minute of stoppage time.

42': Dangerous opportunity for Spain with Xavi earning a free kick on the edge of the box. The midfielder telegraphs his short pass to the top of the box and Donovan adroitly intercepts -- but the U.S. quickly gives it back and Spain threatens again.

38': Spain nearly equalizes when a U.S. defensive breakdown leads to a rapid attack. But Fabregas fails to lead Torres on his entry pass and the Americans are able to clear before El Nino can challenge Howard with a shot.

37': Dempsey sprints into the box and heads Donovan's long free kick just high and wide of the frame. Too bad. Bocanegra had a much better angle for a goal but Dempsey just couldn't see him.

36': Altidore is brought down from behind on Capdevila -- who is booked for the offense -- and earns a set piece.

32': An egregious no-call on a clattering tackle near midfield gives Spain a numbers advantage on the attack. David Villa receives an entry in the box and fires a shot just above the mark. Another near miss. U.S. seems to be playing on adrenaline right now -- they need to collect themselves.

31': David Villa collects a long entry pass about five yards from the goal but his shot attempt is repelled by Jay DeMerit. Dangerous time here for the U.S., with Spain earning a series of corners.

27': GOAL, United States! It's Jozy Altidore who opens his Confed Cup account in style. The 19-year-old receives Dempsey's pass near the top of the box, makes a muscular turn on Capdevila and strikes from 20 yards. Casillas gets a glove on the ball -- but it caroms into the net off the left post. Altidore earns a yellow card from Jorge Larrionda for taking off his shirt during the celebration.

25': Spain earns a corner but again fails to create a chance. A Carles Puyol foul gives the U.S. possession but they're too hasty in attack and fail to maintain it.

23': With Spain ramping up the pressure and starting to maintain more and more possession in the last third, the U.S. catches a break when a foul call goes against Sergio Ramos.

21': Another American attack leads to another long-distance attempt. This time it's Donovan from about 25 yards: His low shot sails wide left. More encouraging fluid attack from the U.S. team -- but Spain hardly looks flustered.

20': Altidore playing too passively. Receives the ball 25 yards from the goal and tries to thread it through to Davies instead of turning and shooting.

18': Just like that, Spain generates a rapid counterattack. Fernando Torres puts a shot on net -- Howard with the excellent save! -- but the linesman rules him offsides. Watching the replay, I'm not certain it was.

17': Clumsy touch by Albert Riera along the sideline at midfield returns possession to the U.S. They've strung four passes together and start to put Spain on the defensive.

15': Careless giveaway by Spain in its defensive third but the U.S. gives it right back. The Americans regain possession, slow things down and look to organize an attack at midfield.

11': Bocanegra strips Fernando Torres but a hurried Ricardo Clark pass gives possession right back to the Spanish. The U.S. cannot afford to give the ball away cheaply to a possession-oriented opponent like Spain. Torres generates a chance near the left post but it sails into the crowd.

9': Dempsey's shot attempt from 20 yards skates just wide of the net, past the outstretched arms of Casillas. We're watching one of USMNT's better openings against an elite team in recent memory.

6': The U.S. is looking fluid in attack. With numbers, Davies whips a bicycle kick off Altidore's entry pass -- but it flies wide left. Exciting play and a near miss.

5': The first major plot point of the game. Shortly after Casillas hurries from the goal line to clear a lead pass, Donovan earns a yellow for a reckless challenge.

3': The U.S. wins its first corner as Altidore makes a run into the box. Donovan's entry is headed clear.

2': A Bocanegra foul gives Spain an early set piece, which leads to a corner. But the Spanish can't generate a chance.

1': Early opportunity for the Spanish with an entry pass entering the penalty area -- but it's harmlessly cleared away.

2:30 p.m. ET: "The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes, everything else is pure theory. Off we go!"

2:27 p.m. ET: The players shake hands following the national anthems and take their places. U.S. wearing an all-white kit, with Spain in their distinctive red shirts.

2:24 p.m. ET: Anthem time in South Africa. But not before prepared messages from Casillas and Bocanegra, the team captains, as a part of FIFA's "Say No To Racism" campaign.

2:18 p.m. ET: The sides are making their way through the bowels of the Free State Stadium to the pitch, where the din of the vuvuzelas is already unbearable.

2:12 p.m. ET: We're approaching kickoff time in Bloemfontein. Tweet your scoreline predictions to @SI_24Seven.

1:57 p.m. ET: The Spanish XI: Iker Casillas (captain), Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Albert Riera, David Villa, Fernando Torres. There's no denying the once-in-a-generation quality of the Spanish side, whose possession-based attack can wear ill-prepared opponents into submission.

1:53 p.m. ET: Time for a little history. Today marks just the fourth time the U.S. and Spain have met on the pitch, with La Furia Roja winning each of their three previous meetings. The first came in the group stage of the 1950 World Cup, when Spain won 3-1 just four days before the U.S. team's historic upset of England (a match still considered the greatest upset in the U.S. team's history). The second came in March 1992, when Spain won a 2-0 friendly in Valladolid. The third was 12 months ago in Santander on the eve of Spain's successful Euro 2008 campaign, when the hosts edged a cagey U.S. side 1-0 on a late Xavi strike. That experience -- offering up a spirited challenge to the world's best team in its backyard -- could benefit the Americans today.

1:37 p.m. ET: Bob Bradley has revealed his team for today's match. The Americans will employ a 4-4-2 formation with Tim Howard, Jonathan Spector, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, Clark, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore starting. Team captain Bocanegra is expected play left back, replacing Jonathan Bornstein.

1:09 p.m. ET: What role might the weather conditions play in today's match? The local forecast portends sub-freezing temperatures at 8:30 p.m. local time when Spain and the United States take the Free State Stadium pitch.

12:48 p.m. ET: Just got word Jorge Larrionda is the referee for today's match. You may remember the Uruguay native from the testy group-stage clash between the U.S. and Italy at the 2006 World Cup, when Larrionda sent off two Amercian players -- Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope -- during the first half. The selection of a card-happy disciplinarian is significant given the way red cards undercut the U.S. team's Confed Cup efforts against Italy (Ricardo Clark) and Brazil (Kljestan).

12:29 p.m. ET: We're about two hours from kickoff of today's Confederations Cup semifinal between Spain and the United States.

The Americans needed a minor miracle just to make it out of the group stage, so there's the sense they're rolling with house money today in Bloemfontein. But can Bob Bradley's side let it ride against a world-class opponent in the biggest international tournament of the year -- just days after a pair of humbling results against bluebloods Italy and Brazil?

With a victory today, Spain can extend its unbeaten streak to 36 consecutive matches, eclipsing the international record Brazil set from 1993 through '96. Oddsmaker William Hill lists the U.S. as a 12-to-1 longshot to snap Spain's record run.

But the Amercians, who played the Spanish tough in a last year's 1-0 friendly loss in Santander, remain confident of their chances against the world's top-ranked side. Observed midfielder Sacha Kljestan: "It's time for them to lose one."

Follow Sports Illustrated on Twitter (@SI_24Seven) and join in the discussion by including the hashtag #USMNT in your tweets.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.