GENOA, Italy -- Three thoughts after the U.S.' 1-0 victory against Italy on Wednesday:
? U.S. Soccer did something new on this trip, offering what it calls an "Ultimate VIP Experience." The two people who have gone through the program this week are Mark and Kristin Beach, a couple from San Mateo, Calif., where they work in finance. "It's been unbelievable," says Mark, a hard core U.S. fan. "This is the single greatest trip for me, ever." The highlights have been many, they said. Former U.S. star Brian McBride flew over and has been their personal host, sharing nuggets from his playing career. They had private conversations with Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Spector, got special access to training sessions and received a guided tour of nearby Portofino. (They sat at the game with McBride and surprise guest Mike Piazza, the former baseball All-Star.) "It hasn't all been soccer, so it's a nice balance for me," says Kristin. The price wasn't cheap -- one source says it cost the couple around $16,000 for a three-day experience, not including airfare -- but part of it is tax-deductible and will go to funding U.S. youth development programs. The first couple to do it is coming away happy. "I will be doing this again," Mark said with a smile.
? I figured it was time to do an Annotated Klinsmann, at least when it comes to the old-school numbers that he associates with positions on the field. They're reflected in the numbers players wear on their U.S. jerseys now (from 1 to 11, without names), and they even come up in Klinsmann's discussion of players. The other day he talked about Sacha Kljestan playing in the "6" or "8" position. Here's how it breaks down if the U.S. plays a 4-2-3-1, as it started against Italy:
1 = Goalkeeper
2 = Right Back
3 = Left Back
4 = Right Center Back
5 = Left Center Back
6 = Left Holding Midfielder
7 = Right Wing Midfielder
8 = Right Holding Midfielder
9 = Striker
10 = Central Playmaking Midfielder
11 = Left Wing Midfielder
? The topic of goal-line technology came up again this week after AC Milan had a shot go two feet over the line against Juventus in a crucial Serie A game, only for a goal not to be allowed. UEFA president Michel Platini once again came out and said he was not in favor of goal-line tech (he wants to have goal-line officials), but he's in an increasingly smaller crowd. "I'm 100 percent in favor of goal-line technology," Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Brad Friedel told me yesterday. "If you can set up a Hawk-Eye system that can see 140-mile-per-hour serves and tell if it's in or out, I think we can do it for soccer. As far as should teams have challenges and stuff like that, I say no. You should keep the human element with refereeing with the exception of the goal line."
When I asked U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati if U.S. Soccer and MLS would like to be part of any FIFA experimentation with goal-line tech, he said yes. "We've told FIFA in the past," he said. "Their issue now is to come up with the best system out of the ones that are out there, whether it's Hawk-Eye or another one. If they decide to experiment with one of the systems, we'd be happy to be part of that. MLS has said the same thing."