Photo by ISIphotos.com
The U.S. Olympic team was just a minute away from the most impressive result in U.S. men’s Olympic soccer history. One minute from a place in the quarterfinals, and one minute from potentially avoiding Argentina in the quarterfinal draw.
All that changed when Gerald Sibon drove a low free kick under the U.S. wall from 23 yards out to give the Netherlands a last-gasp equalizer and force the Americans to settle for a 2-2 tie in Olympic action on Sunday.
Sibon drew the late free kick on a clumsy challenge from Stuart Holden, who crashed into him at the top of the penalty area. Sibon capitalized, sending a hard and low shot below the airborne U.S. wall and past a helpless Brad Guzan.
The equalizer negated goals from Sacha Kljestan and Jozy Altidore, who helped erase a Dutch first-half lead with their own second-half strikes.
Now the Americans must secure a result a Nigeria or risk missing out on the quarterfinals. They will have to take on Nigeria without the services of Freddy Adu and Michael Bradley, who both drew ill-advised yellow cards, giving them each two for the tournament and an automatic one-match suspension.
The U.S. team won’t be the only one missing players for the crucial match. Nigerian defenders Onyekachi Apam and Olubayo Adefemi are also out do to yellow cards.
The tie leaves the United States at 1-0-1 heading into the final group match against Nigeria, which defeated Japan, 2-1.
The Americans can now secure a place in the quarterfinals with a tie against Nigeria. Here’s why. If the Netherlands defeats Japan and the USA ties Nigeria, that would leave the Dutch, USA and Nigeria tied at five points. The Americans would win a tie-breaker against Nigeria based on goals scored, which is the second tie-breaker (goal differential is the first tie-breaker and Nigeria and the USA would be equal there if they tied.). The U.S. team heads into its match against Nigerial having scored three goals, while Nigeria has scored two.
The U.S. team can also reach the quarterfinals if the Netherlands fails to beat Japan in its final group match.
I will offer a more detailed breakdown of the match later today. For now, please feel free to share your thoughts on the match below.