With Kuwait's surprising 3-2 win over the reeling Czech Republic, the U.S. team (0-2-0, 2 points) now sits in third place in Group C behind Cameroon (1-1-0, 4 points) and Kuwait (1-0-1, 3 points). With two points, the USA needs a win versus Kuwait in Melbourne on Tuesday night (Sept. 19) to assure themselves of a first ever spot in the second round of an Olympic Games. The U.S. men can still win the group if the Czech Republic (0-1-1, 1 point) beats Cameroon earlier that night in Brisbane.
"I thought tonight's result was a better one for us than the other night," said head coach Clive Charles, whose international record moves to 3-2-3 on the year. "We had a lot of chances, and we know that. But you have to understand that the hardest thing to do in the world is score a goal, and they come in bunches. As long we keep creating opportunities, we're going to start putting teams away."
For the second consecutive game, the U.S. conceded a penalty kick goal for a hard tackle in the penalty box. This time around, it came in the 16th minute before Cameroon had even taken a shot. Attacking midfielder Lauren Etame Mayer burst through the penalty box, evaded sliding U.S. defender Ben Olsen, and then was cut down with a hard tackle from "over-age" defender Jeff Agoos in the 15th minute. Powerful striker Patrick Mboma stepped up and blasted the ball into the right corner as Brad Friedel dove to his right, giving the African nation a 1-0 lead and momentum that would last through much of the first half.
Similar to Wednesday's match, the U.S. team needed time to become accustomed to their opponent's attack. Almost the polar opposite of what they faced against the big, strong Czech Republic side, the young Cameroon team exhibited blazing speed, creative dribbling and clever combinations in their attack, which centered on Mboma and also involved spry forward Samuel Eto'o Fils.
But as much as the overall team speed was giving the U.S. defense problems, the Americans started to impose their game plan after the first 20 minutes of the contest had passed. In the 24th minute, U.S. forward Conor Casey ran on to a ball and chipped Cameroon goalkeeper Daniel Bekono into an open net, but it was disallowed after a questionable offsides call.
Just two minutes later, midfield wizard John O'Brien served a ball that perfectly beat the offsides trap, leaving Josh Wolff racing in with just the ?keeper to beat. With Bekono charging out to snuff out the chance, Wolff was forced to make a quick touch, which rolled quickly toward the endline. The hero of just three nights ago with a goal and an assist in the 2-2 draw, the Chicago Fire forward could only shake his head in frustration on this evening. Just before serving a cross to Casey in front of an open net, the 5'9" forward slipped on the wet grass and inadvertently knocked it out for a corner kick.
In the 32nd minute, an Agoos ball again beat the offside trap and left Wolff again with just he and the goalkeeper. This time, Bekono charged off his line to save Wolff's low, driven shot.
After notching nine shots in first period to Cameroon's three, the U.S. continued to create wonderful scoring opportunities and have more of the play in the second half.
The U.S. finally broke through in the 64th minute, when Wolff outran two defenders to a through ball and was taken down in the box by Bekono. After a brief injury delay, U.S. midfielder Peter Vagenas took it upon himself to grab the ball, set it down at the spot, and slot it home inside the left post.
In a what seemed like deja vu from three nights ago, the U.S. dominance was clearly apparent during the last 25 minutes of the game, and the Americans pushed forward relentlessly in search of the winning goal to no avail.
In the course of one 60-second span, the U.S. put four shots on goal in two extremely dangerous flurries inside Cameroon's six-yard box, but could not muster a goal in the heavy traffic. In the 66th, midfielder Ben Olsen overlapped to retrieve an Agoos pass, and sent it across the goalmouth. Wolff was there with a volley, but Bekono made an outstanding reaction save. The rebound fell back to Wolff, whose following shot was blocked out over the endline.
On the ensuing corner kick, Olsen sent a looping ball to the head of active midfielder Chris Albright, who punched a shot toward goal that Casey took out of the air and ricocheted off the chest of a well-placed Bekono. Even with U.S. defender Danny Califf on the doorstep, the loose ball was quickly knocked away just feet from the goalline.
Perhaps the best U.S. scoring chance of the match came in the 75th minute, when Albright beat his defender into the box and laid a ball off for an onrushing Casey at the far post. Running perfectly in stride, Casey tried unsuccessfully to slip the ball by Bekono from point-blank range. Bekono finished the match with nine saves and was clearly the "Man of the Match" for the Cameroon side after being peppered by 19 shots from the Americans.
The U.S. Men's Olympic Team travels to Melbourne tomorrow, where Kuwait awaits in a must-win match on Tuesday (Sept. 19) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground at 8 p.m. (local time). The match will be shown via tape delay on MSNBC as part of their regular coverage from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET). With a win, the USA will advance to the second round, whether they would 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. Cameroon|
|Competition:||2000 Olympic Games - Opening Round, Group C|
|Venue:||Bruce Stadium (Canberra, Australia)|
|Date:||September 16, 2000 - Kickoff 8 p.m. (local)|
|Weather:||68 degrees - Cool, Clear|
CMR - Patrick Mboma (penalty kick), 16,
USA - Peter Vagenas (penalty kick), 64.
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, 9-Ben Olsen; 17-Conor Casey, 16-Josh Wolff.
CMR - 1-Daniel Bekono; 3-Pierce Wome, 5-Patrice Abanda, 13-Aaron Nguimbat; 4-Serge Mimpo, 7- Nicolas Alnoudji, 8-Geremi Njitap Fotso (Capt.), 12-Lauren Etame Mayer, 15-Joel Epalle (11-Daniel Ngom Kome, 65); 9-Samuel Eto'o Fils, 10-Patrick Mboma (16-Modeste Mbami, 77).
|Serge Mimpo (caution)||41.|