U.S. Men's Olympic Team Stuns Medal Favorites Czech Republic with 2-2 Draw in Group C Opener in Canberra
U.S. forward Josh Wolff (Chicago Fire) was named "Man of the Match" for his three-point performance on the evening. The Stone Mountain, Ga., native help the U.S. grab a surprising 1-0 lead in the 21st minute with a perfect low cross that right midfielder Chris Albright knocked home. Wolff put the Americans up again just two minutes before halftime when he tapped in a Conor Casey cross for goal that mirrored the first strike and gave the U.S. the all-important momentum going into the half.
"It was a tough battle. Both teams came out to attack and we fought very hard," said head coach Clive Charles, whose international record improves to 3-2-2 on the year. "I was very happy with the way we played. I think we earned some respect tonight. We just hope we can continue to play that well in our next two games."
From the outset, the Czech Republic was looking to use their height to their advantage and impose their relentless long ball attack on the U.S., cranking the first of many balls up to their big forwards with less than 20 seconds gone in the match. The smaller American side was scrambling to win headers all over the field in the game's opening minutes, but the tide turned when the clock hit 10 minutes, as the scrappy U.S. side had their first extended possession of the match.
The U.S. would own the next 10 minutes, with midfield generals John O'Brien and Pete Vagenas spreading the field and serving the likes of Wolff, fellow running mate Conor Casey and converted midfielder Chris Albright. After six dangerous forays into the box in that span had come up empty, the U.S. game plan to attack the flanks and use superior speed to get behind the Czech defense finally produced a goal in the 21st minute.
The important opening strike came from some a brilliant individual effort from Wolff as he attacked down the left flank. The quick forward performed a tight rope walk along the touchline with a defender on his right shoulder, before a extra burst of speed sent him into the box with a few steps on Czech right back Lukas Dosek. Heading toward the endline, Wolff's low cross barely glanced off the shin of Dosek and skimmed across the box. Casey lunged for the pass and couldn't connect, but Albright was perfectly positioned at the back post to knock it home in traffic.
The Czech team roared back in what was already a see-saw battle and pulled even on a strike from midfielder Marek Jankulovski in the 28th minute. Jankulovski received a ball at the edge of the box, where he quickly drew three U.S. defenders, but he cut to his right and back to his left before uncorking a left-footed laser. "Over-age" goalkeeper Brad Friedel reacted quickly but slipped on the wet grass when diving to his left, and the shot glanced off his fingertips and dropped behind the goalline.
Back at even just seven minutes after earning a 1-0 lead, the U.S. proved resilient and owned the rest of the half. A wave of attacks down the wing continued to tear up the three-man Czech backline, and the U.S. earned a mighty momentum-builder just two minutes before halftime.
The goal that put the U.S. ahead 2-1 before the break was almost identical to the first, except Wolff was on the other end of this strike. Continuing what the U.S. attackers had been doing all night, the 6'1" Casey went straight at Dosek down the left flank. His low cross across the goal mouth eluded two lunging Czech defenders and fell at the feet of Wolff, who tapped it home to produce a smattering of "USA! USA!" chants.
Dosek would redeem himself as a result of the Czech Republic taking it to the Americans in the beginning of the second half. Dangerous Czech forward pounced on a poor Danny Califf clearance and charged into the box, where U.S. team captain Chad McCarty brought him down with a vicious tackle. In the 52nd minute, Dosek stepped up to the penalty spot and calmly stroked it inside the right post, as Friedel threw his body in the opposite direction.
Not satisfied with a draw, the U.S. continued to press and O'Brien produced a number of excellent through balls and scoring opportunities for forwards Casey and Wolff that could've lead to the game-winner, but it wasn't to be. A hard tackle from behind in the box on a Wolff breakaway in the 88th minute did not produce a deserved penalty kick, much to the disgust of the 25,000 fans and to the dismay of the U.S. bench.
When the final whistle blew, the U.S. had left their mark on the game, especially a defensive line that pushed forward at will yet only yielded three shots on goal. The U.S. team had made their mark by out-hustling their opponent for loose balls, out-jumping their taller counterparts for headers and out-gunning the Czech forwards. The final stat sheet reflected the U.S. edge in play, with a 13-8 edge in total shots, and 8-3 difference in shots on goal and a remarkable 11-2 advantage in corner kicks.
The Americans remain in Canberra for their second match on Saturday (Sept. 16) versus a quick and talented Cameroon, who remain a popular medal pick after victorious over Kuwait 3-2 tonight in Brisbane. The U.S., who is trying to advance out of the first round for the first time ever, will finish Group C play against Kuwait on Sept. 19 in Melbourne. Should the USA advance to the second round, they will travel to either Adelaide or Brisbane against an opponent from Group D, which includes Brazil, Slovakia, South Africa and Japan.
2000 U.S. MEN'S OLYMPIC TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Men's Olympic Team vs. Czech Republic|
|Competition:||2000 Olympic Games - Opening Round, Group C|
|Venue:||Bruce Stadium (Canberra, Australia)|
|Date:||September 13, 2000 - Kickoff 8 p.m. (local)|
|Weather:||65 degrees - Cool, Clear|
USA - Chris Albright, (Josh Wolff), 21,
CZE - Marek Jankulovski (unassisted), 28,
USA - Josh Wolff, (Conor Casey), 44,
CZE - Lukas Dosek (penalty kick), 52.
USA - 1-Brad Friedel; 4-Jeff Agoos, 3-Chad McCarty (Capt.), 8-Danny Califf, 6-Frankie Hejduk; 5-John O'Brien, 10-Peter Vagenas, 11-Chris Albright (12-Ramiro Corrales, 85), 9-Ben Olsen; 17-Conor Casey, 16-Josh Wolff.
CZE - 18-Jaroslav Drobny; 2-Lukas Dosek, 3-Adam Petrous, 4-Radoslav Kovac, 5-Roman Lengyel; 6-Roman Tyce (Capt.), 7-Libor Sionko (Tomas Kucera, 85), 8-Tomas Ujfalusi (16-Jan Simak, 68), 9-Marek Jankulovski; 17-Marek Heinz, 11-Milan Baros (14-Libor Dosek, 68).
|Roman Tyce (caution)||19,|
|Tomas Ujfalusi (caution)||47,|
|Chad McCarty (caution)||51,|
|Conor Casey (caution)||55,|
|Marek Heinz (caution)||81.|
Man of the Match: Josh Wolff.
|September 13||Brisbane||Cameroon vs. Kuwait||CMR 3, KUW 2|
|September 13||Canberra||United States vs. Czech Republic||USA 2, CZR 2|
|September 16||Brisbane||Czech Republic vs. Kuwait|
|September 16||Canberra||United States vs. Cameroon|
|September 19||Brisbane||Czech Republic vs. Cameroon|
|September 19||Melbourne||United States vs. Kuwait|