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Good fortune in Tianjin
by Paul Kennedy, by Ridge Mahoney, August 8th, 2008 6:45AM

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[RECAP] With a spirited effort, the U.S. Olympic men's team beat Japan, 1-0, Thursday in Tianjin, and thanks to good fortune landed in first place in Group B.

FIRST HALF.
The U.S. certainly benefited from good fortune on two occasions during the first half. Japan turned a seemingly innocuous short corner kick into a great chance when Masato Morishige ghosted in at the far post and got on the end of a low cross from Atsuto Uchida but stabbed his shot off-target. On another corner four minutes before halftime, Uchida curled a cross that a wide-open and blatantly offside Hiroyuki Taniguchi stooped to head wide of the post.

SECOND HALF.
Right back Marvell Wynne set up Stuart Holden's winning strike in the 47th minute. Holden played a ball wide to Wynne, who burst past Yuto Nagamoto to hit a low cross that caromed off the knee of captain Hiroki Mizumoto and out to Holden, who struck a low shot from just inside the area that squeezed under the left hand of goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa and slithered over the goal line.

T
he Americans deservedly held that 1-0 advantage to the final whistle, dodging a late penalty decision when defender Maurice Edu tugged on the jersey of Yohei Toyoda as they raced for a long ball. Japan appealed for a penalty when Edu bodied Hiroyuki Taniguchi off the ball during a goalmouth scrum in the 80th minute, but a much stronger case could be made for his tug on Toyoda that referee Badara Diatta also ignored.

THE USA REPORT CARD.
Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney graded the U.S. players' performance ...

USA-JAPAN (1-0)
U.S. PLAYER RATINGS
GRADE PLAYER
7 Brad Guzan
6 Marvell Wynne
7 Maurice Edu
5 Michael Parkhurst
4 Michael Orozco
7 Stuart Holden
5 Michael Bradley
6 Sacha Kljestan
5 Robbie Rogers
5 Freddy Adu
5 Brian McBride
SUBSTITUTES:
5 Jozy Altidore
NR Benny Feilhaber
NR Danny Szetela
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)

USA REACTION.
Stuart Holden
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."

Brian McBride
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."

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."

Click here for more from the U.S. players and Coach Peter Nowak.

PRESS REACTION.
Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated
"When you're the U.S. soccer coach, your team hasn't been scoring goals and you leave a $10 million striker (Jozy Altidore) on the bench to start the Olympic opener, things had better turn out right. But Peter Nowak is a ballsy coach, and after the U.S.'s huge 1-0 victory here over Japan, his decision to bench Altidore, as surprising as it may have been, is unassailable. In fact, it reminded me a lot of Bruce Arena's stunning decision to face Portugal in the 2002 World Cup opener without pre-tournament Sports Illustrated coverboy Clint Mathis, only to see the U.S. pull off a 3-2 upset."

Yomiuri Shimbun
"Against the U.S., Japan suffered from the usual malaise that has plagued the national team for years at all age groups: its inability to finish. The problem was highlighted by a point-blank miss by defender Masato Morishige midway through the first half. Keisuke Honda, who had a few misses of his own, played a short corner in the 21st minute to right-back Atsuto Uchida. Uchida then crossed for the far post, where Morishige had the ball all to himself. But somehow, Morishige managed to scuff wide of the post, about a meter off the line. The shot was probably more difficult to miss than make."

THURSDAY'S SCOREBOARD.
Group A
Aug. 7 in Shanghai
Australia 1 (Zadkovich 69) Serbia 1 (Rajkovic 79).
Aug. 7 in Shanghai
Argentina 2 (Messi 43, Acosta 86) Ivory Coast 1 (Cisse 53).

Group B
Aug. 7 in Tianjin
USA 1 (Holden 47) Japan 0.
Aug. 7 in Tianjin
Netherlands 0 Nigeria 0.

Group C
Aug. 7 in Shenyang
Brazil 1 (Hernanes 79) Belgium 0.
Aug. 7 in Shenyang
China 1 (Dong 89) New Zealand 1 (Brockie 53).

Group D
Aug. 7 in Qinhuangdao
Italy 3 (Giovinco 41, Rossi pen. 45, Acquafresca pen. 52) Honduras 0.
Aug. 7 in Qinhuangdao
South Korea 1 (Park Chu Young 68) Cameroon 1 (Mandjeck 81).

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE.
Group A
Aug. 10 in Shanghai
Argentina vs. Australia
(TV: USA, live-multisport coverage, 5 am ET)
Aug. 10 in Shanghai
Serbia vs. Ivory Coast

Group B
Aug. 10 in Tianjin
Nigeria vs. Japan
Aug. 10 in Tianjin
USA vs. Netherlands
(TV: USA, live-multisport coverage, 7:30 am ET)

Group C
Aug. 10 in Shenyang
New Zealand vs. Brazil
Aug. 10 in Shenyang
Belgium vs. China

Group D
Aug. 10 in Qinhuangdao
Cameroon vs. Honduras
Aug. 10 in Qinhuangdao
Italy vs. South Korea



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