August 10, 2008
By Michael Lewis
NO DUTCH TREAT
U.S. gives up tying goal to Netherlands in stoppage time
Tianjin, China -- So close, yet so far.
|Gerald Sibonís grasscutting free kick passes under the U.S. wall to give the Netherlands a 2-2 tie in Sundayís Group B match in Tianjin.
Photo by Tony Quinn
Only seconds away from pulling off the upset of the men's Olympic soccer tournament and qualifying for the quarterfinals, the United States had victory snatched away on a free kick by Gerald Sibon three minutes into stoppage time, settling for a disappointing 2-2 draw with the favored Netherlands Sunday night.
Instead of using Wednesday night's confrontation with Nigeria to determine whether they would finish first or second in Group B in Beijing, the Americans will be fighting for their Olympic lives.
A victory over Nigeria (1-0-1, four points) would boost the U.S. (1-0-1, four) into the quarters. The Netherlands (0-0-2, two) needs a win over Japan (0-2-0, none) and for someone to take the full three points from the other game to move on.
The tie had a Pyhrric victory quality to it one as the team's best attacking midfielder, Freddy Adu, and defensive midfielder, Michael Bradley, accrued their second yellow cards of the tournament and will have to sit out the game.
"It's bittersweet," Adu said.
The sweetness came from the fact the U.S., outplayed in the first 25 minutes, rallied behind a pair of second-half goals before a crowd of 45,015 at Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium.
Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan equalized off a nice run after an Adu feed in the 64th minute, and one-time New York Red Bulls striker Jozy Altidore, who replaced Robbie Rogers a minute later, knocked home the go-ahead score off his right knee after a left-side cross by defender Michael Orozco in the 72nd minute.
But three minutes into stoppage time, Stuart Holden, the scoring hero of the U.S.'s 1-0 win over Japan in the first game, was shown a yellow card for fouling Sibon behind the left edge of the penalty area. Sibon fired a shot under the six-man defensive wall and past goalkeeper Brad Guzan (formerly of Chivas USA) to equalize and put the American dreams on hold, at least for a few days.
Sibon, a teammate of Bradley's at Heerenveen in the Dutch First Division, said he had no strategy on the kick. He said he wanted to "just blast it on goal and see where it ends."
It ended in the back of the net, ruining the night of U.S. coach Peter Nowak and the rest of his team.
"It's tough," he said. "As I told the guys in the locker room, that's the way the game goes sometimes. Not too many people gave us a chance tonight against the European champions, but we were very close to beating them. We have unfinished business. Going into the game with Nigeria, any result other than a loss, and we will pass into the quarterfinals."
Adu was carded by referee Michael Hester (New Zealand) for running into goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer in the 78th minute, Bradley for taking his time on a free kick a minute into stoppage time.
"I should have been a little bit smarter," Bradley said.
There was little doubt that the Dutch were the superior side in the early going. The Americans had trouble putting together an attack, while their opponents had few problems going forward and causing headaches for the U.S. defense in and around the penalty area.
The Netherlands could not put a dangerous shot on net, although Royston Drenthe hit an eight-yard attempt over the crossbar in the seventh minute and then sent a head shot wide left in the 15th minute.
The Dutch efforts paid off in the 16th minute. Midfielder Jonathan de Guzman raced down the right wing and before stepping out of bounds at the end line he sent a cross to Ryan Babel in front that Maurice Edu (Toronto FC) leaped for but could not head out of harm's way. Babel sent a point-blank header that Guzan blocked. But the ball came right back to Babel and while falling to the wet turf the Liverpool forward slipped it into the lower right side with Edu right behind him for a 1-0 Dutch advantage.
Adu gave the Dutch a scare in the 27th minute when he danced through the Netherlands midfield and part of its defense on a run that began in the U.S. half and ended at the top left of the penalty area. His start and run might have been entertaining, but his finish was disappointing as his shot sailed over the net.
Adu went into another gear in the 34th minute when he tried to make something for the Americans. While running toward the penalty area, Adu was flattened by defender Kew Jaliens. The U.S. was awarded a free kick some 19 yards out on the left side. But instead of Adu taking the kick, Bradley attempted the kick and his try was blocked by a Dutch player and traveled out of bounds for a corner kick.
That Adu did not take a kick in such a dangerous area was surprising considering he turned a pair of free kicks into goals during the U.S.'s 3-0 win over Canada that clinched a berth at the Beijing Summer Games during the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.
It seemed Adu's runs unnerved the Dutch defense and backline as the Americans discovered they had a lot more room to run and set up plays and shots.
Vermeer was forced to make a couple of bang-bang saves in the 40th minute. First, Holden launched a long-range blast the keeper parried away. The rebound came to Rogers on the left side and the Columbus Crew midfielder fired a shot that Vermeer knocked away again.
The Netherlands came extremely close to making it 2-0 in the 48th minute as captain Hedwiges Maduro got behind the defense and headed the ball from three yards into the side netting.
Brian McBride (Chicago Fire), who had been silent offensively for the first 1 1/2 matches tried to equalize in the 50th minute, but Vermeer tipped his header over the net for a corner kick.
Edu got too close to Vermeer in the 54th minute and ran into the keeper for a yellow card.
After defender Dirk Marcellis was slapped with a yellow card for a hard foul on Orozco in the 60th minute, the U.S. was awarded a free kick some 27 yards out. Holden fired a shot that Vermeer punched away.
The Americans finally solved Vermeer in the 64th minute on a brilliant play by Adu and Kljestan. Adu slipped Kljestan the ball and the Chivas USA midfielder bolted toward the Dutch goal past defenders Gianni Zuiverloon and Jaliens before beating Vermeer to the lower left side from eight yards.