A Stuart Holden goal shortly after half time proved the difference in the U.S. Men's opener in the Beijing Olympics. The U.S. dodged a few bullets in the later stages of the match and ultimately might have been fortunate to garner all three points, but it was an all-around solid effort for Peter Nowak's men. The victory removes some of the bad taste left over from the U.S. Women's loss to Norway in their opening game.
"The first game in this kind of tournament is very tight and you have to compete," said U.S. head coach Peter Nowak. "I'm very proud of them, because the first game is never easy and you never know how it is going to be . You train for three weeks and you try to find the right recipe about how the team will play. It was important to get the three points."
More quotes, courtesy of USsoccer.com
The U.S. next faces 2007 European Under-21 Champions Netherlands on Aug. 10 in Tianjin. Kickoff is set for 7:45 a.m. ET, and the match will be broadcast live on the USA Network and the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel. Fans can also follow along on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker.
The U.S. backline held solid throughout the match, anchored by centerbacks Maurice Edu and Michael Parkhurst while outside defenders Marvell Wynne and Michael Orozco won the flank duels. The combination of Michael Bradley and Sacha Kljestan kept the center of the park tight, with Holden and Robbie Rogers pinching in to deny space to the Japanese attack. Despite delivering a few dangerous crosses, Japan only managed two shots on goal.
At the other end of the park, U.S. captain Brian McBride worked tirelessly throughout the night, earning several fouls and maintaining consistent pressure on the Japanese defense. At 36, McBride is the oldest player in the tournament and the oldest to appear in the Olympic Games since the new format was established in 1992. Rogers troubled the Japanese with several attacking runs with the ball at his feet.
U.S. players Stuart Holden (left) and Brian McBride celebrate after Holden's second-half goal against Japan in the Olympic opener for both teams. Team USA won, 1-0. (AP photo / August 7, 2008)
Both sides spent the first 15 minutes settling into the atmosphere in Tianjin, where the temperature reached 92 degrees at kickoff. The match was tightly contested through the midfield, with both teams looking to exploit room on the flanks. The USA's got their first good look at goal in the 14th minute through a sweet combination play. Sacha Kljestan penetrated the middle of the Japan defense before feeding an entry pass into McBride. The forward laid a back pass off to Michael Bradley, who fired a low line drive that forced the Japanese ‘keeper to make a solid save.
Japan countered with a great chance eight minutes later that began with a cleverly crafted corner kick play. Atsuto Uchida played a short corner to Shinji Kagawa, who quickly played a ball into Keisuke Honda, who was charging from near post. He laid a ball back to Uchida, who delivered a ball across the six-yard box that a diving Brad Guzan just knicked. The changing trajectory fooled Masato Morishige, who was lurking at the far post, and his attempt at goal bounced wide.
The best chance for either team in the opening stanza came in the 41st minute for Japan. After a failed clearance off a corner, Uchida launched a cross into the six-yard box. Hiroyuki Taniguchi - the beneficiary of a missed offsides call - had a clear look at goal, but his glancing header skimmed wide.
The U.S. took the lead for good in the 47th minute on a play began by Marvell Wynne. The right back outpaced his defender down the right flank and whipped a low cross into the box. Japan captain Hiroki Mizumoto attempted a clearance, but his effort fell straight into the path of Holden. The midfielder stepped into a hard drive that snuck under the arms of Shusaku Nishikawa, delivering the U.S. the decisive 1-0 lead.
With the lead in hand, the U.S. was able to maintain possession in several stretches despite pressure from Japan. Nonetheless, the final 30 minutes were not without a couple close calls. A penetrating cross from Shinji Kagawa in the 65th was skimmed out of a danger by a sliding Edu, who also held off Keisuke Honda during a scrum in the box just 10 minutes from the final whistle.
Japan got one more look at goal in the final minute of stoppage time, launching a ball into the area that forced Guzan off his line. The U.S. ‘keeper lost the race to substitute Tadanari Lee, but Lee's header sailed safely over the bar.
The U.S. used all three of their allotted substitutions. Jozy Altidore replaced McBride in the 74th minute, then Benny Feilhaber came on for Holden in the 83rd minute. Danny Szetela became the USA's final change in the 87th minute, entering in place of Rogers.
Following the Netherlands match, the U.S. changes venues for their final Group B match when they face 1996 Gold Medalists Nigeria on Aug. 13 in Beijing. The match will be shown live on the USA Network and the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel beginning at 5 a.m. ET.
U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
USA vs. Japan, 2008 Olympics Group Stage
Venue: Tiajin Olympic Center Stadium; Tianjin, China
Date: August 7, 2008; Kickoff - 5:00 p.m. local / 5:00 a.m. ET
Weather: Hazy, Humid, 92 degrees
USA - Stuart Holden 47th minute.
USA: 18-Brad Guzan; 2-Marvell Wynne, 6-Maurice Edu, 15-Michael Parkhurst, 3-Michael Orozco; 7-Stuart Holden (10-Benny Feilhaber, 83), 4-Michael Bradley, 16-Sacha Kljestan, 14-Robbie Rogers (8-Danny Szetela, 87); 11-Freddy Adu, 17-Brian McBride - Capt. (12-Jozy Altidore, 74)
Subs: 1-Chris Seitz, 5-Dax McCarty, 9-Charlie Davies,13-Patrick Ianni
Head Coach: Peter Nowak
JPN: 1-Shusaku Nishikawa; 4-Hiroki Mizumoto - Capt., 5-Yuto Nagatomo, 6-Masato Morishige, 7-Atsuto Uchida; 8-Keisuke Honda, 10-Yohei Kajiyama (17-Tadanari Lee, 64), 12-Hiroyuki Taniguchi, 14-Shinji Kagawa (11-Shinji Okazaki, 84), 16-Takuya Honda; 15-Takayuki Morimoto (9-Yohei Toyoda, 73)
Subs: 2-Hajime Hosogai, 3-Maya Yoshida, 13-Michihiro Yasuda, 18-Kaito Yamamoto
Head Coach: Yasuharu Sorimachi
USA / JPN
Shots: 8 / 8
Shots on Goal: 4 / 2
Saves: 2 / 3
Corner Kicks: 2 / 5
Fouls: 15 / 18
Offside: 2 / 4
USA - Freddy Adu (caution) 51st minute.
USA - Michael Bradley (caution) 64.
JPN - Keisuke Honda (caution) 73.
JPN - Takuya Honda (caution) 77.
USA - Brad Guzan (caution) 87.
Referee: Badara Diatta (SEN)
Asst. Referee: Evarist Menkouande (CMR)
Asst. Referee: Bechir Hassani (TUN)
4th Official: Stephane Lannoy (FRA)
2008 Olympic Men's Soccer Tournament Standings, Schedule
Team W L T Pts GF GA GD
ARG 1 0 0 3 2 1 +1
AUS 0 0 1 1 1 1 0
SRB 0 0 1 1 1 1 0
CIV 0 1 0 0 1 2 -1
Australia 1, Serbia 1
Ivory Coast 1, Argentina 2
Argentina vs. Australia, 5:00 a.m. ET
Serbia vs. Ivory Coast, 7:45 a.m. ET
Ivory Coast vs. Australia, 7:45 a.m. ET
Argentina vs. Serbia, 7:45 a.m. ET
Team W L T Pts GF GA GD
USA 1 0 0 3 1 0 +1
NED 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
NGA 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
JPN 0 1 0 0 1 2 -1
Japan 0, USA 1
Netherlands 0, Nigeria 0
Nigeria vs. Japan, 5:00 a.m. ET
USA vs. Netherlands, 7:45 a.m. ET
Netherlands vs. Japan, 7:45 a.m. ET
Nigeria vs. USA, 7:45 a.m. ET
Team W L T Pts GF GA GD
BRA 1 0 0 3 1 0 +1
CHN 0 0 1 1 1 1 0
NZL 0 0 1 1 1 1 0
BEL 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1
Brazil 1, Belgium 0
China 1, New Zealand 1
New Zeland vs. Brazil, 5:00 a.m. ET
Belgium vs. China, 7:45 a.m. ET
China vs. Brazil, 7:45 a.m. ET
New Zealand vs. Belgium 7:45 a.m. ET
Team W L T Pts GF GA GD
ITA 1 0 0 3 1 0 +3
KOR 0 0 1 1 1 1 0
CMR 0 0 1 1 1 1 0
HON 0 1 0 0 0 3 -3
Honduras 0, Italy 3
South Korea 1, Cameroon 1
Cameroon vs. Honduras 5:00 a.m. ET
Italy vs. South Korea, 7:45 a.m. ET
South Korea vs. Honduras, 7:45 a.m. ET
Cameroon vs. Italy, 7:45 a.m. ET