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A look back at the USA-Netherlands match


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It’s okay to admit it. The U.S. Olympic team’s 2-2 tie vs. the Netherlands feels like a loss, doesn’t it? Just seconds from the biggest win in U.S. men’s Olympic history and a sequence of poor decisions leads to a late Dutch equalizer and the painful feeling you would normally associate with a defeat.

Yes, it felt like a loss, but it certainly was not a loss.

That final play can’t be forgotten and ignored, but it also shouldn’t overshadow what was still one of the best performances an American team has put together in an international tournament. After being dominated for the first 20 minutes and trailing by a goal, the U.S. team responded with quality soccer and fearlessness.

No, the U.S. team’s comeback and 2-1 lead were no fluke, the Americans outplayed the Dutch for 65 of minutes. There was no bunkering, no hitting and hoping. The U.S. team moved the ball around, created quality chances and defended well for a majority of the game. It was a quality performance made more impressive by the fact that it came a Dutch team regarded as a medal favorite, and a Dutch team that came into the match needing a result.

Yes, Gerald Sibon’s goal spoiled the day and leaves the U.S. team needing a tie against Nigeria to progress to the quarterfinals, but a challenge like that shouldn’t be seen as a curse. An event like the Olympic soccer tournament isn’t just about the medals on the line. It is also about young players earning unforgettable experiences and facing difficult challenges. It is about showing the world  what your country’s soccer is about, about proving that you can play the game well.

The Americans proved that against the Dutch. From Freddy Adu’s tricky dribbles to Sacha Kljestan’s dangerous runs to Jozy Altidore’s burgeoning promise as a big-game striker, to Michael Bradley’s composure and presence in the middle of the field, the U.S. team provided ample evidence that this country is producing skilled soccer players and progressing beyond the disappointment of the 2006 World Cup.

From a team standpoint, watching the U.S. defense come together after a slow start and watching the U.S. midfield create and control against a team as good as the Netherlands were what made Sunday’s game a memorable one and important one in the evolution of the men’s national team.

Yes, there were mistakes, but to expect no mistakes in what is essentially an Under-23 tournament is a bit much. Almost every team in the Olympic Tournament has had to deal with errors, from the Dutch to Argentina. It is easy to forget how young these players are when you have such a good competition (and yes, I have been guilty of that as well).

What the Americans were guilty of on Sunday was not being used to a situation like that, beating a high-level opponent and knowing how to finish them off. The Dutch were a beaten team and ripe to be finished off, but the U.S. team didn’t have the experience to do it. You only develop that killer instinct by putting yourself in those situations regularly, something we just might see if this young and strong generation of American talent continues to develop.

The Netherlands match is history though, and what matters now is that the Americans control their own fate on Wednesday. Beat or tie Nigeria and the U.S. team advances out of what is, without question, the toughest group in the Olympics. Beat Nigeria and the U.S. team wins the toughest group in the Olympics. Yes, playing Nigeria without standouts Freddy Adu and Michael Bradley will be tough, but the situation also creates an opportunity for players such as Altidore, Kljestan, Benny Feilhaber and Danny Szetela to step up and show what this team is made of.


What did you think of Sunday’s match? Have you changed your view of the result after having a night to digest it? Do you think the U.S. team has what it takes to accomplish the task at hand?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. “lol@this guy”

    And Mexico’s federation is watching ten more years of bad results in the making.

    So where is Carlos Vela/Gio playing now?


  2. This tournament is a high level, pressurized, learning experience, someplace to blood players for the World Cup. Imagine if we could get through and meet Messi and Argentina in a match that really mattered (Argentina takes these games seriously).

    In that regard the team has done well. At least they appear to be performing better than the women, for a change.

    Neither Mcbride nor Rogers are the abject failures everyone seems to think they are. Rogers defended well in the second half. Someone needs to eventually replace Eddie Lewis and he is one possibility.

    McBride isn’t scoring but he is drawing a lot of attention and a lot of fouls and is opening up holes for others, which is what good target men do, the dirty work. Jozy appears to have an injured ankle so he is only good for about a half, another reason McBride is important. It seems like Bake softens them up for Jozy’s speed, strength and quickness. Still I’d like to see both of them in a 4-4-2 but I doubt Jozy’s ankle will hold up.

    I like Bradley but ever since I’ve seen him play for the USMNT he has always taken a lot of bad fouls, many of them those wonderful Premiership two footed tackles from behind. Someone needs to tell him to stay on his feet.

  3. Be prepared for the US team to go to war in their next games. I guarantee you they will not leave another opponent bleeding but still alive on the field. No way.

  4. I’ll put it right out there, I think the US team is going to rip Nigeria apart on Wednesday. Our guys are hungry and dangerous and they’ve had a taste of what success is about, I don’t think they’re about to shirk away from the challenge when they know they can get through.

    And if the next round is against Argentina, so what? We’ve seen enough top level international tournaments, whether on the youth level or the international level, to know that its going to be tough. Very tough. But our guys are ready for that, they know what to expect, there are no surprises here, and its not the first time they will have faced Messi and company.

    I truly believe that against Nigeria, and dare I say against Argentina next, they will be fearless and will leave it all — win or lose — on the field. And that’s all any of us can really ask for from our team.

  5. Very pleasing game. Shows the potential of the team and its youth and experience as well. I felt bad for Holden. He struggled at the beginning and was getting pounded on defense then shined in the middle of the attack until he bombed at the end, Rogers was struggling with his crosses but found a way to contribute with very good defense and good overlapping play with Orozco. Freddy started out playing very small but got better and better as the game went om. Kljestan and Bradley had not played very well in the wrm ups and Jpana game but finally showed why they are such good players.

  6. one more Bradley comment. Yes, he could have sat the last round and played in the quarters, but I believe I am correct in saying that cards reset AFTER the quarters, but suspensions carry through. So if you have one yellow you are clear, but a second yellow in the quarters means you sit the semis.

  7. props to northzax on the mls comment. true point, and it has been flying under the radar that most of the players are getting their experience in mls. during the game yesterday i kept saying to my friend as a joke, but turned into something very telling– every time marvell shut down drenthe i kept saying ‘toronto fc v. real madrid and toronto came out on top’. i think it shows how far mls has developed our current crop of players.

  8. Northzax I’m with you. MLS is a big winner and by proxy all of us fans. I believe only 3 players on the Olympic roster are not or have not been on MLS rosters this season. All of the players are PROs, no College players. They did write another chapter in that book and it was a damn good one.

  9. so sunday’s game was good, and that was it. it was a good performance by the US, but let’s not get out of hand. the US played a strong game over a poor dutch side that lacked any cohesion, but in my mind still struggled where it mattered – the midfield. we didn’t control possession. freddy had 2 or so incredible runs, but that is almost all he did in the whole game – other than that he was invisible – why? because freddy shouldnt be the player controlling the game, he’s the one who adds in that bit of spark to translate possession into goal. because we lack possession, we can’t get freddy regularly involved, meaning less offense. i still want to see benny get the full start. sacha’s goal was a beauty, but other than that he hasnt impressed at all this olympics, and i dont think he should be playing in the center. i think benny deserves the look because 1- he’s an incredible prospect at the position the US is weakest at and therefore deserves a second chance after his brilliant gold cup, and 2- sacha can’t play that possession/ playmaker role. and i hear a lot of people saying they don’t know why benny deserves another shot, but i would be tempted to say the same about bradley. that yellow was incredibly stupid, and balboa is an idiot for encouraging it. at worst, we win, and nowak puts bradley on the bench for safety- bradely had no need to guarantee he couldnt play. he fouls often and leads to many turnovers, though his hustle and defensive bite is great. personally, if spector was back, id like ot see edu in the middle and bradley on the bench.

    my lineup:

    same back 4 + guz

    sacha – feil – szetela – holden

    altidore/mcbride – davies

    altidore and mcbride cant play together – let davies run off of one of them holding the ball up. remember how well mcbride and landon worked in 2002? controversial i know, but we need to get out of this horrible british mindset of grinding out wins/ties. it’s time to try to play some free flowing soccer, to try to control the ball and use our superb athleticism, otherwise i see nothing good coming of a trip to azteca.

  10. Lineup against Nigeria:




    —————– Edu——————



  11. I know Dax has played left back in a pinch, maybe slide Orozco into the center (where he’s most comfortable) and move Mo up to defensive mid (where he’s most comfortable). Just an idea.

  12. I dunno, Rocky, I’ve read that Josy’s ankle is still really bothering him. I doubt he can start and go 90. I say something more like this:




    —-same back four—-


    I actually think the best option would be to move Edu up in Szetela’s if we had anyone I trust to partner with Parkhurst. I don’t think Ianni’s the answer.

  13. I think this Nowak can be a genious with his selections, he has a hungry player in felharber who needs to impress to cling on with another team. You also have a fresh Altidore who shorely will start. I think you bring in those two and you sit rogers, and bring in Dax. Let Dax sit in front of the back four, thats what he does best. Remeber we only need a tie. This is what i would love to see the usa come out with: If we get through remember we will have our 2 best players fresh for the knockouts.




    —————– McCarty——————



  14. Yeah i like what Northzax said about MLS being a big winner. It’s true that, thus far, several Americans have increased their stock. Marvell Wynne in particular has shown the world that he can play top-division soccer in Europe.

  15. Right, Tim F., and there is no way the U.S. is getting a result against the Dutch. Oh, wait…

    My point is you never know…you can’t even say that Nigeria and the US should be evenly matched because both tied the Dutch and both beat Japan by one gaol. Previous results mean very little and you have to play the game to see who’s better that day. I, for one, think we looked pretty crappy against Japan and pretty good against the Netherlands. How we do Wednesday depends on which US team shows up.

  16. @northzax

    Take a look at the link I included in the post above. Starting on p. 51, it breaks down the whole point system. It’s pretty complicated, so you should take a look–it’s difficult to summarize here.

    But in general, there are six factors that provide a single game score:

    1. Red and yellow cards (10 pts. max)

    2. Positive play (based on an assessment of continuing to press forward, not time-wasting, etc.) (pretty subjective) (10 pts. max)

    3. Respect toward the opponent (pretty subjective) (5 pts. max)

    4. Respect toward the referee/linesmen/fourth officials (pretty subjective) (5 pts. max)

    5. Behavior of the team’s officials (pretty subjective) (5 pts. max)

    6. Behavior of the crowd (sometimes disregarded if the number of supporters for one side is negligible) (5 pts. max)

    Then it’s divided by the total number of possible points and multiplied by 1000.

    As for your specific question, a first yellow counts as minus 1, a second yellow (and therefore red) to the same player counts as an additional minus 3, a direct red is minus three, and a direct red for a player already carrying a yellow is minus 4. All are subtracted from the 10 pts in factor 1. It does seem that you can actually get minus points from this factor, though I’d have to know more about how FIFA writes its regulations to be sure.

    So, since I forgot to add in Holland’s straight red, this is a lot closer than I thought. There’s A LOT of room for funny business here, with all of those subjective assessments. I don’t think anyone would want the standings to come down to this criteria.

  17. I haven’t read the preceding remarks so if I repeat their sentiments forgive me for a monotonous post. I whole heartedly agree with what you’ve said, Ives. I was very disappointed with the result but the game was incredible! It’s the same feeling I had watching the U20 WC. This group of players are the next step forward. They are attack minded and not intimidated by the should-be soccer powers. Our current crop of national players have risen the bar from just qualifying to being expected to advance in big tournament. I believe these younger players will have the confidence to take that one step further. I believe the further ventures into the semi’s and finals of major tournaments will be a great possibility with this group. Do we have the skill and technical ability of top countries? No. However, where we would in the past luck out a win 1 in 15 matches I believe those odds will improve with this group to more like 1 in 5.

    The first 20 minutes of the game I was resigned to the fact that our players still had so much work to do on the techical side of the game. It was evident we were outclassed and over our heads. The Dutch were putting to gether pin point passes and controling long passes out the back with one touch while in contrast the US had passes missing by miles, thier first touches were clumsy, both resulting in tons of unforced turnovers. It was laughable. I was thinking about how delusional all of us are. Then they settled down and the skill showed. the runs and passing truly belonged within the definition of the beautiful game! I for one am stoked about the future of US soccer more than ever after this game. I also am in support of Novak. he obviously knows more than any of us about the team he has. Other than not making a late defensive sub in the Holland game I think he’s pulled every string correctly thus far – and if the wall would have done it’s job he would have been perfect IMHO>


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