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USA men tumble out of Olympic Tournament

The task was already going to be tough, but when U.S. Olympic defender Michael Orozco drew a red card just four minutes into the U.S. team’s crucial Olympic match against Nigeria, the job turned into trying to swim in a shark tank with your foot cut off.

The Nigerians picked and prodded at a gutsy U.S. team, eventually finding openings and punishing the Americans with a pair of clinical goals on their way to a 2-1 victory on Tuesday. The win helped Nigeria win the group, and also helped eliminated the United States from the tournament just three days after the Americans looked well on their way to the quarterfinals.

So what went wrong exactly? Where do you begin? Losing Orozco and having to play a man down threw the U.S. team’s gameplan out the window and also crippled an already left flank. The lack of left-sided options on the U.S. roster was exposed for all to see as U.S. coach Peter Nowak was left with nowhere to turn.

Then there was star forward Jozy Altidore, who sources say went into the tournament nursing an ankle injury that limited him. Insted of a coming out party, Altidore left Tuesday’s match at halftime, failing to play a combined 90 minutes in a tournament he was supposed to be a star of.

As for the red card, there is no denying two things. Orozco can’t throw an elbow of any kind, but the referee did not have to give a red card that early in the match. The elbow wasn’t at the face or a full-swing strike. It was an innocuous swing that led to an award-winning acting job by Solomon Okoronkwo. That didn’t matter as much as the fact that Orozco lost his cool, leaving it up to the judgment of a referee to determine his fate.

Even with all the adversity, and having to chase around a dangerous Nigeria squad a man down for 86 minute, the U.S. team had life late in the game. Second-half substitute Charlie Davies left us wondering why he hadn’t played more in this tournament when he came on and instantly provided a dangerous threat. His header off the crossbar late in the match nearly gave the Americans a stunning equalizer, but luck wasn’t on the U.S. team’s side this day.

Not when the Netherlands are being gifted a weak penalty call to help give the Dutch a penalty kick goal and 1-0 victory in a game they were outplayed by the Japanese. It will be tough for American fans to accept, but it was the U.S. team’s own mistakes in the 2-2 tie vs. the Netherlands that helped the Dutch team reach the quarterfinals despite playing poorly for most of the group stage.

Perhaps that is the most frustrating part about the U.S. team’s exit from the Olympic tournament. The squad showed signs of being good enough to advance, being skilled enough to play with anybody in the tournament. Players such as Sacha Kljestan, Freddy Adu, Marvell Wynne and Charlie Davies gave us moments that led us to believe that something special might happen in these Olympics.

Now it’s over and the promising signs do little to erase the feeling that this tournament was a wasted opportunity.

What did you think of the U.S. team’s loss and exit from the tournament? Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. It’s absolutely clear that mental discipline is key to success in any situation. I believe that the US men’s soccer could have advanced to the next level if every player exercised mental discipline consistently.

    I think the team has improved quite a bit and the talent level is fairly decent. The team just needs to mature into a tight defensive, prominent mid field controling and a creative forceful attacking unit.

    Careful team selection with players who fit the positions will do the magic. Let’s keep the dream alive.

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  2. and Orozco…

    that was very unfortunate- i think his frustration with his own underperformance throughout the tournament finals got to hime right when he was beginning to play well. in teh first few minutes of teh game, it seemed that he experly took teh ball away from the nigerian, almost got a cleat in the face and then held his ground and overreacted a bit with his elbow to the grabbing of his shoulder and neck. A yellow definitely, but in the context a red- i wouldn’t think so.

    Too bad because our team was then doomed. Too bad too because he played great in the qualifiers and was beginning to find his form out wide.

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  3. All I can say is that for those 3 games I felt like we had arrived (eerily similar to the MNT WC02 effort). We had Holland on the ropes- incredible! True, we blew it at some pivotal moments but our ‘bad luck’ (which it was) is what makes soccer inherently beautiful; on any given day the best team may not always win.

    Outr biggest need is to develop better crosses and runs off the ball. I still feel like we do not move that well off the ball like almost every other team we’ve played against. Hopefully with better coaches/consultanst that will happen.

    Nevertheless, there is a bright future. It would be interesting to see the Olympians w/ Bradley & Spector vs. the full nats. My money would be on the youngins.

    Some notes:

    Klestan- at times really took control of the midfield- something we haven’t seen from a US player in some time. His wall jump was unfortunate- as simple as that.

    Adu- his size really is a problem when he’s up top. out wide he looked good running at paople- he even helped out on D! (reminds me of landycakes but with bigger ba$$s)

    Edu- has amazing potential- once ‘they’ figure out what position he should be in where he can study it & he can be a true force. a taller Makelele is not that out of the question. in the Japan game he won almost every tackle- a la vintage makelele.

    Guzan- what we hoped for and assumed- excellent net-minding!

    Feilhaber- very dissappointing.

    Nowak- as expected- moved freddy out wide which was good but the desperation subs against nigeria left me puzzled.

    Davies- played with the heart i wish benny had

    Holden- as expected- great at times & a dumbA#$ at others

    Wynne- played well & hopefully will develop

    the touch (in his defense, playing on field turf doesn’t help)

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  4. The fact that we are all so gutted by the loss speaks volumes as to how far we have come. I remember watching the 2000 olympic team with the likes of Josh Wolff, Peter Vagenas, and Conor Casey. I don’t remember being as upset when that team was finally knocked out of the competition.

    The 2008 version has so much more talent than that team. For me, it was refreshing to see a midfield in this tournament that actually had some players with some real technical ability. Obviously, Holden and Kljestan made their share of mistakes, but these are young players with a lot of promise. I have a Romanian friend who lives in Europe now but spent enough time in the states to care what was going on with the US nat team. He didn’t follow MLS all that closely so when he saw young guys like Edu, Holden, Kljestan, Guzan, etc. he was impressed with the talent they displayed. I think we have a lot to look forward to as long as the powers that be can get their act together to develop these players to their max potential.

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  5. Can someone explain to me why we weren’t going after the game sooner? Novak said the Dutch goal led him to put on Davies. Why? If we had lost 5-0 and the Dutch had tied we would have gone through. What difference did that make. We should have been going for the tying goal right away not with 10 minutes left.

    And why the hell take Altidore off. Novak may have done some good things with this team, but the in game decisions seemed completely stupid.

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  6. To add insult to injury, this means that now Michael Bradley will be available for our WCQ, and of course he will play all 90 minutes. I was so hoping to see some other pairing in midfield.

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