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So close yet so far ...
by Paul Kennedy, by Ridge Mahoney, August 11th, 2008 7:01AM



[RECAP] The USA was denied of one of its greatest victories in Olympic men's soccer history when a stoppage-time goal by Gerald Sibon spared the European U-21 champion Netherlands the embarrassment of losing to the Americans. Sunday's 2-2 tie left the Americans in first place, ahead of Nigeria on total goals, in Group B, but instead of being assured a berth in the quarterfinals, they will probably need a result against Nigeria on Wednesday to advance. A task made all the more difficult because Freddy Adu, excellent against the Oranje, and Michael Bradley will be suspended.

ADU'S INFLUENCE. Adu's brilliance unhinged the Dutch numerous times. His scything dribbles split them open, and one meandering run up the middle produced a left-footed shot he crashed over the crossbar. Yet Adu created both goals with shrewder and cruder touches, sliding a through ball that Sacha Kljestan took to the house in the 64th minute, and charging down a clearance that bounced to Michael Orozco, whose hammered square ball pinged off Jozy Altidore's knee and into the net.

MIDFIELD MOVES. U.S. coach Peter Nowak sent out the same XI in a 4-4-2 formation that had bested Japan, 1-0, in the opening game, and during the first 20 minutes the Americans struggled to keep possession as well as their footing on a soft, chopped-up surface. When Stuart Holden switched to the flank from the middle and Adu dropped back from his forward spot, the Americans coped better with the Dutch 3-5-2 and gained a foothold in midfield.

Kljestan, Adu, Holden and Rogers, buttressed by Bradley in the holding role, controlled the pace and direction in midfield and forced the Dutch team into late tackles and turnovers. Left midfielder Royston Drenthe had dominated his flank early in the match, but after Wynne overran him several times he nearly coughed up a chance when a poor header, and Sibon eventually replaced him in the 75th minute.

Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. players' performance ...

6 Brad Guzan
7 Marvell Wynne
5 Maurice Edu
6 Michael Parkhurst
5 Michael Orozco
6 Stuart Holden
6 Michael Bradley
7 Sacha Kljestan
4 Robbie Rogers
8 Freddy Adu
6 Brian McBride
6 Jozy Altidore
NR Benny Feilhaber
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)

U.S. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan
On his goal:
"We had possession for a little while. I think we kept it for a few touches and then I played it to Stuart (Holden) and he played it back, and then I played it to Freddy (Adu) and just made a run. My guy didn't stay with me and Freddy played a great through ball. I cut inside of the last defender and hit it as hard as I could, luckily, it went in."

U.S. Forward Jozy Altidore
On his goal:
"It happened so fast. It started with a throw-in from Marvell, and it was pinging around the box and I got it to Orozco. I just put myself in a spot where I thought the ball was going to end up, and luckily for me it actually took a deflection off the defender and came right to me and I just tapped it in."

U.S. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan
On the Netherlands' second goal:
"Going into that situation, knowing it's basically going to be the last chance of the game, as a goalkeeper you've got to trust the wall and unfortunately tonight the wall decided they were going to go up and over and they went under. We jumped and he hit a screamer low and hard, and when that happens there's not much chance as my main focus is the other side of the goal. Unfortunately, we just picked the wrong option tonight."

Click here more from the USA.

Grant Wahl,
"... three of the four U.S. yellow cards against Holland were just plain dumb: [Freddy] Adu and Maurice Edu both drew one for foolish challenges on goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer, while [Michael] Bradley got one for time-wasting before a free kick. (Even worse, Adu's and Bradley's earned suspensions against Nigeria.) Meanwhile, the U.S.'s fourth yellow of the night, [Stuart] Holden's late foul just outside the box, led directly to the [Gerald] Sibon's equalizing free kick."

Group A

Aug. 10 in Shanghai
Argentina 1 (Lavezzi 76) Australia 0.
Aug. 10 in Shanghai
Ivory Coast 4 (Cisse 3, own goal 24, Kalou 70, Gervinho 90) Serbia 2 (Mrdakovic 16, Rakic 90).

Group B
Aug. 10 in Tianjin
Nigeria 2 (Obinna 58, Anichebe 74) Japan 1 (Toyoda 79)
Aug. 10 in Tianjin
USA 2 (Kljestan 64, Altidore 73) Netherlands 2 (Babel 16, Sibon 90).

Group C
Aug. 10 in Shenyang
Brazil 5 (Anderson 3, Alexandre Pato 34, Ronaldinho 55, pen. 61, Rafael Sobis 90) New Zealand 0.
Aug. 10 in Shenyang
China 0 Belgium 2 (Dembele 8, Mirallas 80).

Group D
Aug. 10 in Qinhuangdao
Cameroon 1 (Mbia 74) Honduras 0.
Aug. 10 in Qinhuangdao
Italy 3 (Rossi 15, Rocchi 31, Montolivo 90) South Korea 0.

(Argentina, Brazil and Italy clinched berths in the quarterfinals.)

Group A
Aug. 13 in Tianjin
Australia vs. Ivory Coast
Aug. 13 in Beijing
Argentina vs. Serbia

Group B
Aug. 13 in Shenyang
Netherlands vs. Japan
Aug. 13 in Beijing
Nigeria vs. USA
(TV: USA, live-multisport coverage, 5 am ET)

Group C
Aug. 13 in Qinhuangdao
China vs. Brazil
(TV: Telemundo, USA, live-multisport coverage, 7:30 am ET)
Aug. 13 in Shanghai
New Zealand vs. Belgium

Group D
Aug. 13 in Shanghai
South Korea vs. Honduras
(TV: Telemundo, live-multisport coverage, 5 am ET)
Aug. 13 in Tianjin
Cameroon vs. Italy

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