U.S. Men's Olympic Soccer Team Falls Short in Bronze Medal Bid, Loses 2-0 to Chile in Sydney
Even with the disappointing loss, this team advanced further than any other before it in U.S. Men's Olympic Team history dating back to 1924. The young American gang of Under-23 players still finished as Group C winners and advanced to the final four of the Olympics.
"In the second half, I thought we played the best soccer we've played in the entire tournament," said head coach Clive Charles, whose overall record (including exhibitions) is 22-11-13 (wins-losses-ties) since taking the reigns of the U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team in 1998. "Then all of a sudden, we give away a penalty (goal) and the whole game changes. Now we're caught chasing the game, and it's very difficult to do in that stage."
"I'm very proud of this team. They played very, very well tonight against a good team. And they played some very good soccer tonight against a good team."
From the beginning, the game was very even, with Chile sitting back and absorbing the early American attacks and then trying to strike quickly with a counter-attack, a strategy they executed to perfection tonight as they did during the entire tournament to the tune of a tournament-leading 14 goals in six games.
From early on in the match, the U.S. worked to their strengths and effectively attacked the flanks. In the fourth minute, U.S. defender Jeff Agoos (D.C. United--MLS) put MLS teammate Ben Olsen (D.C. United--MLS) through on the left flank. Olsen ran the ball down and sent a great cross toward the far post, but a Chile defender headed it away.
In the 17th minute, U.S. forward Josh Wolff (Chicago Fire--MLS) -- arguably the best player on the U.S. team over the course of the Olympics -- won a loose ball deep in Chile's end of the field, then sliced his way through three Chile defenders before sending a low ball that 33-year-old Chile goalkeeper Nelson Tapia slid to save.
At halftime, the two teams had combined for just three shots, although attacking had been the way of the first 45 minutes.
The U.S. side started where they left off in the first half, earning a solid scoring chance in just the first minute of the second period. Seconds from kickoff, the U.S. put together a long series of passes just outside the penalty box that ended with a Conor Casey (Univ. of Portland--NCAA) rocket that Tapia had to parry over the crossbar.
Chile had a good chance of their own in the 56th minute on a great solo effort by forward Reinaldo Navia. Navia worked through the U.S. defense before producing a rising shot that goalkeeper Brad Friedel (Liverpool--England) popped up with one hand and easily gathered unchallenged as it came down.
The U.S. had a golden opportunity in the 59th minute when Wolff worked a 2-v.-1 situation with Casey to draw out Tapia. The Stone Mountain, Ga., native needed to just cross the ball to Casey at the far post, but as he set his left foot, he slipped and sent a short ball right into the belly of a diving Tapia.
The best scoring chance of the match came in the 66th minute on a typically dangerous Jeff Agoos corner kick from the right side. Agoos sent an in-swinger to the near post, where second-half sub Sasha Victorine (Los Angeles Galaxy--MLS) flicked it on toward the far post. Team captain Brian Dunseth (New England Revolution--MLS), who was playing in his first match of the Olympics after being sidelined with a groin injury on the eve of the tournament, leaped high and whipped a header on goal that pegged the crossbar.
On the other side of the ball, Dunseth and the rest of the U.S. backline had kept the dangerous Zamarano extremely quiet. In fact, through the first 60 minutes, his only shot had been a well-timed scissor kick right at the chest of Friedel off a Navia cross. But as most pure scorers do, he would find a way to get goal.
On a controversial call that would completely changed the momentum of the game and ultimately decide the outcome, U.S. defender Danny Califf (Los Angeles Galaxy -- MLS) was whistled for a foul inside the box for sliding to bring down effective second-half sub Sebastian Gonzalez as raced down left side of the box. Even with the ball headed across the endline from a poor touch, the referee ruled Califf's hard challenge to be worthy of a penalty kick.
At this point, Zamarano would take center stage, converting the resulting penalty kick inside the right post in 70th minute.
Their Olympic medal dreams dashed but their overall performance expectations far exceeded, members of the now-disbanded U.S. Men's Olympic Team will head back to the United States at different times during the next few days.
2000 U.S. MEN'S OLYMPIC TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Men's Olympic Team vs. Chile|
|Competition:||2000 Olympic Games - Bronze Medal Match|
|Venue:||Sydney Football Stadium (Sydney, Australia)|
|Date:||September 29, 2000 - Kickoff 8 p.m. (local)|
|Weather:||82 degrees - Warm, Pleasant|
CHI - Ivan Zamarano (penalty kick), 70,
CHI - Ivan Zamarano, (Claudio Maldonado), 84.
USA - 1-Brad Friedel; 4-Jeff Agoos, 2-Brian Dunseth (Capt.), 8-Danny Califf (13-Landon Donovan, 82), 6-Frankie Hejduk; 5-John O'Brien, 10-Peter Vagenas, 11-Chris Albright, 9-Ben Olsen (14-Sasha Victorine, 61); 17-Conor Casey, 16-Josh Wolff.
CHI - 1-Nelson Tapia; 2-Cristian Alvarez, 5-Pablo Contreras, 6-Pedro Reyes, 14-Rodrigo Tello (19-Mauricio Rojas, 86); 16-Rafeal Olarra, 3-Claudio Maldonado, 17-Patricio Ormazabal (13-Rodrigo Nunez, 36), 8-David Pizarro; 9-Ivan Zamarano, 11-Reinaldo Navia (7-Sebastian Gonzalez, 61).
|Patricio Ormazabal (caution)||32,|
|Josh Wolff (caution)||36,|
|Claudio Maldonado (caution)||39,|
|John O'Brien (caution)||51,|
|Sebastian Gonzalez (caution)||63,|
|Conor Casey (caution)||71,|
|Frankie Hejduk (caution)||77.|