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  • 07:04 PM ET  06.15

PRETORIA, South Africa -- They walked by each other in the postgame mixed zone: Giuseppe Rossi and Jozy Altidore, two New Jersey boys, two good friends, two dynamic young scorers who share the same home state, the same club in Spain (Villarreal) and the same kind of blue U.S. passport.

They just don't share the same national team.

"Hey, Jo," Rossi said with a smile after Altidore had given him a friendly slap on the shoulder.

Altidore nodded and kept walking. It was a night of conflicting emotions, after all. In his first game against his home country, Rossi had scored two goals for Italy (the country where his parents where born) in a 3-1 win over the U.S. in the first round of the Confederations Cup. And if you wondered whether it made the night a little bittersweet for 22-year-old Italian-American, you would be right.

"Of course," Rossi said in his thick Jersey accent. "When you play against a team like the country where you were born, it's always a great emotion before coming in. But when you're on the field you have no friends. You just think about playing the game and trying to win for your team."

No player had a bigger impact on Italy's victory than Rossi, who came on as a second-half sub with Italy down 1-0 and on one of his first touches prized the ball from U.S. midfielder Benny Feilhaber, raced into space and fired a 25-yard laser past U.S. goalie Tim Howard. Rossi added an insurance goal in garbage time, putting an emphatic point on his coming-out party for the Azzurri.

Altidore couldn't help but feel good for Rossi, the player who welcomed him with open arms to Villarreal last year, but it was tinged with the disappointment that they'll never play up front together for the U.S. team.

"I'm gonna kill him, man," Altidore joked afterward. "I played with the kid at Villarreal and we're very good friends. So I'm a bit happy and a bit sad. I would love to see those goals come against somebody else."

Altidore played his own role in the U.S.'s goal, earning the penalty that was converted by Landon Donovan for a 1-0 advantage. But this was Italy's night in the end, not least because U.S. midfielder Ricardo Clark's disputed red card changed the game. Most players thought Clark's challenge on Gennaro Gattuso didn't deserve a straight red--this group included Clark, Rossi, Altidore, Donovan and even Gattuso himself--but the result was that it left plenty of open spaces in the center of the field for the Italian attackers, including Rossi.

It's not likely that the U.S. could have done much more to persuade Rossi to choose the Stars & Stripes. If you have the chance to play for Italy, you go for it. But that didn't ease the pain for U.S. Soccer of seeing an American native light up the South African night for another team.

"It would have been our hope that Giuseppe would have played for the U.S., but he made his decision," said U.S. coach Bob Bradley, who knows Rossi's family well. "He is a very talented young player. Today is an exciting day for him and obviously a very disappointing day for us."

A day that U.S. fans always thought might be coming, eventually. A day when Giuseppe Rossi, late of Clifton, N.J., sunk the Americans.

Through-balls: Donovan didn't mince any words about the call by Chilean referee Pablo Pozo to hand Clark his red card. "Eleven guys from each team were prepared and ready to play the game, and the guy in the middle with the whistle wasn't," Donovan said. "That was unfortunate because we wanted to put on a good show. Anybody watching the game knows it's not a red card. The referee after the game will know that it wasn't a red card. It's unfortunate, because it changed the game ... He got emotional and made a quick decision instead of taking his time and thinking about it, maybe asking the linesman or asking the fourth official." ... Donovan showed impressive vision on his passes in the first half, but Altidore and Michael Bradley couldn't finish in the box ... Liked the all-white U.S. uniforms, but teams in all-white (including New Zealand) have now been outscored 8-1 in this tournament ... After being reminded all week of his elbow to Brian McBride in 2006, Daniele De Rossi has a positive highlight against the U.S. following his game-winning goal tonight ... Oguchi Onyewu was a monster for large parts of this game ... You gain a lot of admiration for Mauro Camoranesi when you can see the game inside the stadium and see how much ground he covers. Camo was a threat down the left the entire time he was in the game.

Any additional thoughts on the game? Please post them below.

Grant Wahl's new book, The Beckham Experiment, comes out on July 14. You can pre-order it here. You can also find him now on Twitter.

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