[REACTION]U.S. coach Peter Nowak acknowledged that his team was far from perfect in its opening win over Japan, but he praised his players for their effort. His players said the turning point when they got a second wind to start to second half ...
U.S. Men's Olympic Team Head Coach Peter Nowak:
On his team's performance:
"As I said before the game, these kinds of games, especially the first games of big tournaments, they are very tight and you have to compete. My boys put up quite a fight tonight. I'm very proud of them because the first game is never easy. You never know how it's going to be. You prepare yourselves for two weeks, play games, then you try to find the right recipe. It wasn't a perfect game for us but in this case it was important to present ourselves the way we did tonight and get the three points for our mentality, our confidence. As a coach, my first Olympic win - there's nothing better than that."
On defensive adjustments at halftime:
"We knew that the Japanese team is very dangerous on the counterattack and they find good spots to get between our defenders and midfielders. We did make a few adjustments in the locker room at halftime to correct these problems. There were some lapses. Like I said, it wasn't a perfect game from us. We still have to be more focused and disciplined. From that perspective the players adjusted very well in the second half. We still kept playing our game."
On how Japan played:
"When we put together our game plan tonight we knew that Japan would be very dangerous on the counterattack and that their transition from the defensive line to their forwards is very quick. We had to adjust to that. As the game went on and we had some players getting tired, they were able to find their spots. Keeping the zero, though, is always a good feeling for our defenders, our forwards, and the midfield line."
On moving Maurice Edu to center back:
"This is an idea we tried during the qualifiers. We spent quite some time, and even last December on our trip to China, we've been exploring this option. We knew from the beginning that we needed to find some options. Mo is a very intelligent player and he did very well. The cooperation between him, Michael Parkhurst, Marvell Wynne and Michael Orozco is very good. They understand each other very well. Having options in the midfield and having injuries like we do to Jonathan Spector and Nathan Sturgis, it was difficult to find the right answer. I'm very happy with how Maurice played tonight and I'm looking forward to having this kind of quality player not only for the Olympic team but also the senior team."
U.S. Men's Olympic Team Midfielder Sacha Kljestan
On what they needed to do in the second half:
"I think we needed to settle the game down a little bit and keep the ball more to make them run more, not make us run. In a game like that you need to have possession more than half the time to not kill yourself. I think we did that after we scored the goal. We made them run a bit and obviously when it got late in the game they started throwing everybody forward and it was tough, but we battled. I have so much respect for our team because we fought so hard tonight."
On the experience:
"It was awesome. This is the best feeling in the world. It's crazy out there just knowing everybody is watching and knowing this is the Olympics, what we've worked so hard for. To get a victory is so wonderful right now. We feel really good about the team."
U.S. Men's Olympic Team Forward Brian McBride
On the match:
"I think we played a smart game. I think we kept our shape, especially in a game that we knew was going to be a trying game and physical. It was a good start."
On slowing down Japan:
"We knew we didn't want to give them too much time on the ball because they like to find little spaces and little spots, and I thought the back four and the midfield kept it really tight. They didn't find their comfort zone, at least compared to games we've seen in the past. We were able to limit their chances to come at us. In the last 10-15 minutes when everyone was getting tired they didn't really have time to turn."
On getting fouled a lot:
"It happens quite a bit, but you just go on. The referee took care of it. He didn't give any cards, but he called the fouls and that's all you can ask for."
On the heat and humidity:
"It was a hot day, and it was thick air, but everybody had to play in it. It's one of those things, you have to be smart about it. If you have a chance to go forward, you go forward. When you need to, keep the ball and take a little more time. A few times in the first half we hurried ourselves, but then we started playing a smarter game."
On his chemistry with Freddy Adu:
"There were times when maybe we were a little far away from each other but there were plenty of times that we were able to link up and occupy their center backs. One thing they did was keep pushing people on us and sometimes we took fouls and other times we held on and kept the ball moving. A game like that sometimes we need to be a bit closer, but I think overall it was good."
U.S. Men's Olympic Team Defender Maurice Edu
On playing as a central defender:
"I played a little bit in qualifying, but I also played in midfield during qualifying. (Nathan) Sturgis got injured and (Jonathan) Spector is out, so there's a little bit of a need there. They feel confident in me back there, and I feel confident playing there."
On any anxious moments near the end of the game:
"It was pretty intense towards the end of the game as they were pushing a lot of bodies forward. There were a lot of scrambles in the box, but the referee made the right decisions to let certain plays go on. Our whole team fought hard throughout the game to keep the shutout."
U.S. Men's Olympic Team Forward Freddy Adu
On the start of the second half:
"We caught our second wind in the second half at the right time. I think for about five minutes we wanted to press, press, press and take the game to them and we got a goal. Once we got a goal, it is very hard in these weather conditions to come back from a goal down. We allowed the game to come to us a little bit and now they had to chase the game, allowing us to hit them with the counter."
On the excitement of playing in the Olympics:
"It's the Olympics. You come out here to a packed stadium, and you're just naturally going to be pumped up to come out and play. That's exactly what happened today."
On the Japan team:
"Japan made it difficult for us. They man marked me, so I tried to help my team out by getting behind the defense. I thought I was a little unlucky with some of the calls that didn't go my way, but sometimes those go your way and sometimes they don't.
On his team's performance:
"My teammates were great tonight. Everyone from the goalkeeper to the forwards, I'm very proud of them. I thought it was a good game, and it was a hard game for us. We fought through it and came away with the win. That's the most important thing. With it being the first game, getting the three points was important for us. Japan is no pushover and it was a tough game for us. They pressed us hard early on and in the second half we took it to them a little bit more, we got into our game more."
U.S. Olympic Team Midfielder Stuart Holden
On how it felt to score:
"It's a good feeling, obviously, to get a goal. It's a great feeling not only for me personally but to help the team win. If we hadn't gotten the three points it wouldn't have been as exciting, but to come out and do that in the first game was obviously our first goal. We're happy to have achieved that and we're looking forward to our second now versus the Netherlands."
On the game-winning goal:
"Marvell (Wynne), the speedster, made a great run down the right and whipped in a fast-paced ball, which they didn't clear very well. It felt like an eternity as the ball was rolling out to the top of the box. I just wanted to get it on frame because there were a bunch of people in front of me. I hit it left-footed and it crawled over the line. I think it's the first goal I've scored that hasn't touched the back of the net. It's obviously a great feeling when the ball goes in and to score in the Olympics is unbelievable."
On their upcoming games:
"Our next two opponents are going to be good teams. Holland is obviously very strong, and we watched them in Hong Kong. It's good to get three points at the start of the tournament and be flying going into the second and third game. It was a big win for us, not only for three points, but mentally and with moral. Hopefully, we can build on that and get another three points against Holland."
U.S. Men's Olympic Team midfielder Robbie Rogers
On tonight's game:
"We got the three points today, and obviously that's a positive thing for us. Now we're going to move forward. I think our build up today was good and maybe the final ball wasn't as great as it could have been but we are still getting used to the pitch and the weather so I'm happy with our performance tonight and looking forward to our next game."
On scoring after being shut out at the ING Cup:
"It's always important to score obviously. We went through the ING Cup without a goal and I was looking forward to that first goal. It was a relief to have gotten that. We created a lot of chances and we were dangerous in the final third. We have a strong attack with a lot of good players and we just have to combine our strong defense with a few finishes."
U.S. Men's Olympic Team defender Michael Parkhurst
On his chemistry with Maurice Edu:
"So far it's been good for us. He's easy to play with and makes life easy for me and I try to do the same for him. The communication has been getting better, but we could still improve. I think fatigue was part of that for us tonight too. It was more difficult to communicate once we were so tired in the second half.
U.S. Men's Olympic Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan:
"We knew going into this game that Japan is a team that's going to give you 90 minutes of hard work and dedication. We knew they were going to keep throwing everything forward and the tremendous work ethic of our back four, or back eight pretty much was key. Everyone worked really hard tonight and it showed in the result. Japan is a good team with a lot of technical players who were going to throw a lot at us. Credit our guys for staying strong and organized and helping earn the shut out."
On centerbacks Maurice Edu and Michael Parkhurst:
"I thought those two did an extremely good job of being able to play off of one another and to cover each other, especially when through balls would be placed in between them. I thought they did a fantastic job tonight."
On Maurice Edu's transition to central defense:
"That's why Coach Nowak and the rest of the coaching staff decided to put him back there. He's good on the ball, and he can see things develop. He reads the game very well and to be able to have 'too many' center midfielders is not a bad thing, and obviously it's working out well for us to bring him into the center back.
On how close Japan was to scoring:
"Obviously on the first one from the corner kick, we were fortunate that he pushed the ball wide. It's a situation where sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Fortunately tonight we were both.
On the first Olympic win for the U.S. Men since 2000:
We're not worried about what's happened in the past, we are worried about this team and that's an important factor. What's happened before is in the past and we're focused on this team and this tournament. With the attitude we have on this team and the talented players here, we're going to open a lot of eyes. A lot of people were criticizing us for the ING Cup, but we knew we were using those games to prepare ourselves for these. I think that showed tonight. We came into this game and worked hard. We took our chances when we had them and we got out of here with three points.
Defender Marvell Wynne
On the importance of winning the first game:
"It puts us in a great place. You can't ask for much more. Everyone knows you have to start off the tournament well and getting three points right away puts us in a comfortable position, but we know we can't take our foot off the pedal."
On the assist to Stuart Holden:
"I received the ball on the outside and I always hear people saying to go at them and get my cross in, so I finally went for it. I got in and tried to get it up a bit higher. Luckily, Stuart was right there and finished it."