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Extremely good for 77 minutes
by Paul Kennedy, August 11th, 2008 7:01AM



[MY VIEW] You have to respect Foppe De Haan for his honesty. The Dutch coach, who before his team's game against the USA dismissed the Americans as an ordinary team, admitted afterward that he didn't have a "real team." As surprising as the U.S. effort was after four straight pre-Olympic games without a goal and an opening game in which it won on a rare sortie, the Dutch no-show in Game 2 was a shocker.

With back-to-back European under-21 titles and some of Europe's most highly rated young players, the Dutch were supposed to dismantle the Americans. But after Ryan Babel's early goal, the Jong Oranje stopped pressing.

It gave the Americans time to reorganize and -- finally -- get Freddy Adu involved. De Haan's remarks -- "Nobody is extremely good" -- were an affront to Adu, the one American who is supposed to be extremely good but was only average against Japan.

When he plays up front, Adu often finds himself isolated and all too often easily dispossessed by stronger or quicker defenders, but when he plays in midfield, he is better placed to run at defenders and link up with his teammates.

Adu set the tone Sunday's match in the 27th minute when he took off on a run through the Dutch defense that ended when he hooked left and blasted a shot well over the bar. The playing conditions at the Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium, where the field was torn up by four days of soccer action and wet weather, certainly worked in Adu's favor as they made him even more dangerous.

Adu set up the Sacha Kljestan's tying goal -- working together in midfield to execute a one-two that sprung Kljestan -- and had a touch in the sequence that led to Jozy Altidore's go-ahead goal.

Before Sunday's game, De Haan had dismissed the Americans as not of the level of Nigeria. That was with Adu. We'll have to see how they are without him.

Adu was extremely good for 77 minutes, but his effort was spoiled by a moment of foolishness when his challenge on a 50-50 ball with Dutch goalie Kenneth Vermeer led to a yellow card -- and a one-game suspension that will mean he'll miss the next game against Nigeria.



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