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Holden goal helps USA down Japan


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When Stuart Holden found a loose ball in front of goal and buried it past the Japanese goalkeper, the strike helped relieve a world of pressure off a U.S. Olympic team that could not afford a letdown in its first Olympic match.

A stingy U.S. defense and poor Japanese finishing helped the Holden goal stand up as the Americans posted a 1-0 victory in the opening match for both teams. The American victory, coupled with the Netherlands’ 1-1 tie vs. Nigeria, put the U.S. team atop the group heading into it’s showdown with the Netherlands on Sunday.

The Japanese will count themselves unlucky not to have walked off the field in Tianjin with a victory, as countless chances went begging and a few close calls failed to go their way. Ultimately, the young team did not respond well to Holden’s goal and Japan let the Americans control the game from there on out until the final few minutes.

While an opening win is always a good thing, the Americans leave the Japan match with more questions than answers. Can the midfield get Brian McBride service? If Freddy Adu can’t get going against Japan, will he be able to do so against the group’s tougher teams? Will Michael Orozco get better playing at left back? Who will Peter Nowak turn to on the left flank after Robbie Rogers’ less than inspired performance?

Nowak better come up with an answer for that last one because Ryan Babel will absolutely roast Orozco if Orozco doesn’t get more help than he got against Japan.

I know a lot is being made of the Jozy Altidore benching but I wasn’t completely surprised by it. I mentioned that very possibility earlier in the week and it was clear that Nowak wanted Adu’s creativity on the field but also wanted his midfield to have some defensive balance so he went with Bradley and Kljestan. That said, Altidore showed in his second-half appearance that he is a handful and could be primed for a big tournament. Though I’m not sure if it went into his decision, there is the possibility that Nowak wanted to have Altidore rested for the game against the Netherlands, which doesn’t exactly have a vaunted back-line. Altidore has the size and speed combination, and ability to take on defenders, that can unlock the Dutch defense.

As for Adu, it was very disconcerting to see him so thoroughly neutralized by the Japanese. Japan did well to keep numbers around Adu and match his quickness. The Netherlands may actually be a better match-up for Adu because the Dutch tend to let the opponent play a bit more a they look to strike with the deadly counterattack. If he starts, Adu should have a better chance to show his stuff.

(FOLKS, I just realized at 5:30pm that my positive comments from the match were not included (I just got back from Stamford). Now I get why some of you thought I was overly negative following the win.)

As for the positives, there were a good number of them.Marvell Wynne was my choice for man of the match. He was a beast at right back defensively and picked his spots well in getting forward.

Maurice Edu was a natural at center back today, stifling every chance that came his way. I wouldn’t exactly call Japan’s forwards dangerous, but their midfield was tricky and created some chances that Edu helped thwart.

Michael Parkhurst was steady as every and had a typical Parkhurst game (where you barely notice him but notice the forward he is marking even less). Holden started slow but really came on and put far more effort in in the second half.

Jozy Altidore looked very dangerous in his second-half appearance and I am looking forward to his match up against the Dutch. You can pencil him in for the start.

What did you think of the U.S. team’s performance? Satisfied? Concerned about how well Japan played? Worried about Adu and the rest of the midfield? Happy with the defense? What changes would you like to see Peter Nowak make?

Share you thoughts on the match below.


  1. I think Kljestian definitely deserves a starting spot, maybe it wasnt his best game but he can definitely play and he is a fighter and thats definitely needed in the midfield. I also love Rogers and Holden on the outsides. What I didnt like was having to wait til the 74th minute to see Jozy Altidore. McBride shouldnt have been added to the team. If they wanted to bring a forward they should have brought Dempsey or even Donovan someone who could compliment Jozy’s strength and speed with creativity. Instead they brought McBride, who dont get me wrong, was a great player. But he plays the same big guy, air threat, forward role as Jozy and I think this is Jozy’s time and he deserves it. A better idea wouldve been to pick up another seasoned defender so Edu could play holding midfield, Im not the biggest fan of Bradley so I wouldnt mind seeing him on the bench in favor of Edu.

  2. I’m going to have to back Ives on Rodgers. Dribbling forty yards into the corner is not creating a chacne. He got himself in position to do something but never did. Might have been a little more valuable to the Track & Field team.

    Edu was man of the match. Played great back there and considering he was a questiosn mark you couldn’t ask for more.

    COnsidering the teams has two strikers and the games are being played in oppressive heat and humidity I think that you will see the opposite of yeaterday’s McBride / ALtidore platoon against Holland.

  3. Nate M – I agree. The difference between Altidore and McBride is that even when McBride isn’t getting the ball or the service he needs, he is still a workhorse and makes things happen (draws fouls, wins 50/50s, pressures). We saw that yesterday. I just don’t get that with Altidore… yet.

  4. I disagree with most folks here about Altidore and McBride. McBride was able to take poor service and at least get some set pieces out of it. Altidore took the same poor service and instead was called for 2-3 fouls. He didn’t track back to balls as well (instead trying to post up), resulting in the defender getting a toe in several times. When he had the ball he was better but that in my mind was overshadowed by the losses of possession.

    Also, Parkhurst and Klejstan really looked tired in the end. It was a bit nervous at the end seeing both of those guys stop runs when their marks didn’t.

  5. In any tournament, you want to see your team get better as it moves along.

    We got the 3 pts. That is all that matters. Game over. Next!

    My only comment is that Adu needs to play in the withdrawn role. He is a waste up top waiting for service. He needs to be the provider. So, an Altidore-McBride forward tandem is a good one.

  6. I can’t believe more people here didn’t praise Holden. He played very well the whole game and I think was Man of the Match.

    Adu had an off game and so did Sacha.

  7. It was a waste to keep Mcbride from the Fire if this is the servicing he can expect.

    Adu looked like Chad Barrett consistntly losing the ball. Only Adu was double teamed. Needs to pass the ball sooner.

    Guzan looked shaky in goal almost as shaky as the Barca third stringer.

    The next good cross Robbie Rogers sends in will be the first.

    Edu lucky not to have PK called on him.

    Good hustle by Holden and Wynne. everyone else was about OK.

    Bradley didnt do much but at least was willing to take a shot from distance.

  8. pity that spector got injured when he did because he would have been the perfect left back and would have completed our backline. he knows how to get forward. theres a reason he plays for west ham.

  9. Looking good is nice but a win is a win. Same goes with our game against the Dutch. If we look like crap but get a result I’ll still be happy. If I must say though, our “makeshift” backline was very good today, and got lucky when they needed to. I’ll take it. In some ways, I think we may match up better with Netherlands than Japan, not that they’re easier to beat necessarily.

  10. Well as I’ve said, I’d like to see McBride and Altidore up top. Altidore very technical dribbler, not as technical as Adu but still good. McBride strong up top huge target and can head the ball like no body else in the world and a hell of a finish. Adu will have much more space behind McBride and Altidore. on the right should be Kljestan. The reason for that is because he was playing in a defending position. if he was in a more attacking position he would have had a better influence. Kljestan once got fined for a bad tackle that injured someone. You want THIS guy in central midfield? While i agree Rogers had good dribbling and good skills and created space, he wasn’t able to get back and defend with Orozco. He barely ever crossed the ball. Not only did Holden cross the ball, but he communicated beautifully with Wynne(although Orozco, not being a natural left back, didnt look confident to attack). So i see Rogers more as a spark off the bench. However if you dont want Kljestan than you can put Rogers on the right, seeing as how Wynne can handle himself very well. Rogers is ambidextrous(two-footed) so he can go on both sides for those of you who dont know that. Edu-Parkhurst pairing was good. Edu needs to watch the fouls. I cant really see Ianni getting a start at any point in the Olympics unless either of them slumps in form OR there is an injury. Other than that i think that USA can take on Nigeria. Netherlands is gonna be a toughy. If we get a tie I’ll be surprised

  11. I think Rogers is being unfairly criticized by both Ives and many of the preceding posters. Rogers was about the ONLY player who managed to get crosses into the box or get into a position on the left to make a cross. His runs down the left opened up play and created a variety of chances, including one memorable cut inside the box that almost resulted in a goal. In fact, for much of the first half Rogers was our offense.

    As for his supposed defensive lapses, yes, he’s not a great defender, but Orozco’s an even worse left back. He doesn’t have the speed to cover Rogers when he goes forward, or the tactical sense to know when to hang back to cut out a counter attack. He was very slow closing down the Japanese wingers, allowing too many wide open crosses.

    I would consider Rogers’ performance a bright spot, and lay the blame for a weak left side on Orozco playing out of position and our Center Mids failing to compensate by providing more cover.

    And, I think Adu will get better as the tournament progresses. He looked like he was under too much pressure during the first half; like he wanted to take every touch and create a goal out of nothing. Once he settles down and learns to trust his teammates I think we’ll see some fireworks.

  12. Rob- The speculation that since this match officially falls under the auspice of the US olympic comitee, the USSF left their badge off the kits.

  13. Why is there no USA badge on the olympic teams jersey or shorts? very strange. If I didn’t follow soccer, and wasn’t American, I might not know thats the US team.

  14. John Godfrey – I agree with you about Klejstan but every mothers son tells me I am wrong and just don’t appreciate his technical gifts. I guess after today I still don’t.

  15. They looked mediocre at best but then after watching bits and pieces of other games so did everyone else. Don’t know if it was the heat or the nerves but the level of play was really not very good in any of the matches I saw.

    Anyway- I thought they would draw or lose today so I guess now I would say they will go home after 3 games with 3 points. A draw is all they really deserved and maybe less.

    Other then Wynne nobody impressed today. He was composed and confident all game. Good for him as he seems to be a really nice guy.

    As for Edu—- nice game he had except for one of the two possible penalties he gave up that were not called.

    Rogers is super quick but where is going besides the touch line?

    Adu’s number is out in international football- rough him a bit and if he doesn’t get the calls he will lose his focus on the game and turn it to the referee.

    Home in 3 with 3 points unless Altidore can be a one man- without service or support- wrecking crew.

  16. For a player I really only know a little about, I was very impressed by Wynne. He was nothing short of dominant one the right side, and his run created our only goal. I hope he can perform the same way against stronger competition…

  17. Jason:

    You misunderstand me. I was not commenting on how McBride played. My question is related to the chain reaction caused by giving him one of the three slots. It certainly meant that Altidore sat – and Adu was denied a forward he is very comfortably with. Also, if we had another central defender, then Edu goes back to his natural position and the midfield has more bite.

    Turning to this comment from John:

    I have never thought much of Klejstan, and today’s game reminded me why. Clumsy, nervous on the ball, slow — what does anybody see in this guy?

    I can only ask…huh? He’s no burner, but clumsy and nervous? Have you actually watched him much?

  18. Ponderings:

    First of all I have been up since 5, long day. Looking forward to the late 7:45 start Sunday.

    Concur Holden and Wynne best players on the pitch.

    Guzan would get destroyed in the Premiership with his lack of control in the box. In the first half he was worthless and the US was lucky not to be down. You can’t let balls come in front of goal like that and get away with it against a quality side.

    Edu looked good going forward but I thought defensively he looked sloppy. Should have had at least one penalty against him in the box.

    It was frustrating to watch the US dominate the first 30 minutes and not get any kind of shot on goal. This team is individually too good to not create chances.

    How does McBride not get service in the air against the Japanese in the box? That makes no sense. Am I the only one that noticed our size advantage.

  19. A couple observations:

    Kljestan was out of position. Yes, he can play centrally, but it’s always been with two defensive minded midfielders behind him. I’m guessing Nowak wanted a more traditional winger on the right side, so Holden stepped in. Holden is more of a central player, as well, but he has more speed and can provide better service. I’m not excusing Kljestan’s bad game, because he was not good today, but he is quality when used correctly.

    I can’t put much blame on Adu. He was isolated and didn’t get the ball enough and only got it once or twice in space. Part of that is on Adu, but some of it is on the midfield.

    Edu is going to gift a penalty to some team in this tournament if he doesn’t improve. His tackling was clumsy, and I’m not just talking about the two tackles inside the box that caused every US fan to hold his/her breath.

    Holden or Wynne was MOM for me. I’m not a big fan of Wynne, but he played well. Holden did a good job defending and scored the goal.

    I thought a lot went well and saw a lot of bright spots for the team too, but posting the bad things is more fun.

  20. I have no idea what you people are talking about with Rogers. I know it’s encouraging to see someone other than Adu or Altidore run at people, but Rogers got nowhere with his dribbling. He didn’t actually create any chances – no crosses, no shots. He was a major part of the problem for the US attack. With the amount of service he was providing, McBride might as well have taken the day off. This isn’t to say I don’t think Rogers can be effective going forward, but he’s going to need to do better than he did today.

  21. Tony in Quakeland – McBride was no mistake. You could’ve started Toni (Italian) up top and nothing would’ve happened either. McBride was starved of service and whenever the ball did come near him, he was at least able to draw a foul or hold the ball. I’m wondering of Adu should play out left. At least he has a nice left foot to cross the ball into a dangerous space for McBride to get a head onto to it.

    The pairing of McBride and Adu up top looked awful. But was probably mostly from the lack of playing time together. I was really surprised by how bad they looked. I was having envisions of a long ball to McBride, who then flicks it on to a streaking Adu. But that never materialized…

    On another note, I hope Benny Feilhaber gets more minutes and breaks out of his funk. He seems to be the only player with the strength and creativity to work purely out of the center mid spot to give McBride decent service.

    But whatever. 3 points is 3 points. Go USA!

  22. I have to echo what everyone else is saying — Edu’s defending is heart-attack worthy, but he’s a beast. I was impressed with Rogers as well — he’s innovative and energetic, almost like a more controlled version of what everyone was raving about Shea during the last qualifier. Kljestan looked LOST.

    Bradley is a card magnet. And Adu needs to just get a little more experienced at shutting his mouth if he wants to draw calls. Fortunately, that’s one thing McBride is great for.

    Guzan is coming into his own as well. A couple of minor spots where he made a questionable decision, but he’s so much more confident than he was coming in throughout earlier this year and last fall.

  23. When i saw how Marvell Wynne was running at that defender I was so impressed. If our defenders can run at the other teams defense and get something out of it,(i.e. Holden’s goal) then thats a comforting thought. I didn’t see Orozco run at the defense at all.

    Adu really isnt used to not having two forwards up top to quell the defenses attention. Japan also had to of been warned of how good Adu is so thats also something that really can’t be helped. This is my line up

    CF: Altidore

    ST: McBride

    CAM: Adu

    LM: Holden

    RM: Kljestan

    CDM: Bradley

    it’s obvious who the back four is(even Orozco)

    If we want someone who can help Orozco than Holden should do the trick. and then we flip Kljestan to the right. hes much more efficient at the more attacking positions. he didnt really get much chance to attack. Believe it or not he has good 1v1 ability. we just didnt see it against japan because he was in a more defending position.

    Also dont overlook one thing guys. JAPAN ARE FAST. they were quick and could intercept our passes. they’re execution isnt great but when they outrun the defense they’re execution harldy means squat. Netherlands wont be as quick. however when they do get to us the pressure is gonna be thick.

  24. Does anyone know if the game going to be replayed on TV at all?

    I missed it this morning and would love to get a chance to view it


  25. Sacha > Adu in the middle. Freddy just isn’t good enough to warrant 90 minutes for 2-3 beautiful touches per game. Maybe he could be protected on the wing, but he’s too selfish to play out there.

  26. My opinions on the individual performances today.


    McBride – He is an older slower version of Altidore and he played like it today.

    Adu – Seemed reluctant to distribute but was very well defended. Maybe he needs to be in more of a playmaker role to be effective.

    Rogers – Very promising and sometimes effective on offense. Next to useless defensively.

    Bradley – Decent.

    Klejstan – Not good. Looked lost in terms of possession and passing.

    Holden – Not great in the first half, but looked very confident after his goal. Also played much better with his defensive counterpart on the right than Rogers on the left.

    Orozco – Not a left back and he played like it. Didn’t get foreword at all because he was too busy trying to keep up with Ocheta.

    Edu – Best player on the field for the first 80 minutes, then he tried to do his best Onyewu impression and got away with some borderline physicality.

    Parkhurst – Confident at times and shaky at times.

    Wynne – Clearly the best athlete on our side. When his touch goes his way he is devastating. We can thank him for our goal.

    Guzan – Good goal keeping but needs to work on distribution.


    Altidore – A younger, faster, scarier striker than McBride and he created more chances in his limited time than McBride did all game. Could have gone down for a PK but was too big and strong to let some little Japanese guys take him down in the box.

    Feilhaber – Looked pretty good for riding the bench on the worst team in the Premiership last year. But didn’t stand out too much.

    Szetela – Looked alright.

  27. IT’S A WIN! A WIN! go back and look at the USA-SKR game from WC 2002…despite the score the US caught many breaks in order to win. It’s about time the US wins an important game without everyone playing their best. It’s all about confidence going forward- see USA-CHK 2006 for an example of what happens when you lose your opener against the “easiest” of your group games. As a long-time fan, I’m sick of looking for moral victories in losses. How many times have we seen the shoe on the other foot?

    On the other hand, this means we’ve arrived as a futbol/soccer nation- everyone bitches about the the quality of play in a win against a very good team.

  28. Hey all, my positive comments on the U.S. lineup were not included in the original post but I have included them now. That might explain why people were calling my comments on the match overly negative. There were certainly bright spots, but I think most people will agree the US team will need to play much better to beat the Netherlands.

  29. DL – it’s a fine line is what i’m trying to say. And sooner or later a ref will have none of it at which point I’d rather have a quietly effective defender, such as Parkhurst, who does it with his positioning, than a beast in the middle, such as Edu or Gooch, who do it with their physicality.

    Mark my words a close call will go against Edu in a VERY important time in this tournement.

  30. I have never thought much of Klejstan, and today’s game reminded me why. Clumsy, nervous on the ball, slow — what does anybody see in this guy? I would rather see just about anybody in his place on Sunday, including the monumentally overrated Dax McCarty.


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