With Cameroon downing a high-scoring Chile team 2-1 tonight in Melbourne in the other semifinal, the U.S. will now face the South American side as each country battles for its first Olympic Men's Soccer medal in the Bronze Medal Match on Friday (Sept. 29) back at Sydney Football Stadium in match televised via tape delay on MSNBC between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. (ET).
"We lost to a very good team tonight," said head coach Clive Charles, who led the U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team to a bronze medal at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg last July. "I felt we were just a yard off. I think the effects of the last game took its toll on us a little bit. The guys have had to work very hard in all of the games that they've played, and I think it caught up with them."
The match was a physical one from the onset, with two yellow cards in the first 10 minutes. The midfield was more like a battlefield, with dangerous challenges from both sides that could have kept the yellow card flying. After 15 minutes, the rugged play had already added up to 10 fouls between them.
The skillful Spanish team was more the aggressor from the beginning, and it showed when they took advantage of a U.S. giveaway and quickly and efficiently scored on their first shot of the game in the 16th minute. In a flash, creative midfielder Jose Mari dispossessed U.S. defender Danny Califf (Los Angeles Galaxy--MLS) on the right flank and raced in toward goal with the Orange, Calif. native on his heels. Just as Califf drew even, Jose Mari sent a cross out of reach of defenders Chad McCarty (Tampa Bay Mutiny--MLS) and Frankie Hejduk (Bayer Leverkusen--Germany) to the back post, where forward Tamuro lunged and knocked it in with the outside of his right foot.
Less than 10 minutes later, Spain scored a second goal on just their second shot of the game. Again, it was Califf who was beaten and again, it was Jose Mari who made him pay. But this time, Califf was a victim of nothing more than wet grass. On a high ball sent down field by Spain defender Amaya, Califf and Jose Mari were positioning themselves to go up for the header when Califf slipped and fell on his chest. With Califf at his feet, Jose Mari chested the ball down, turned and flipped a pass through the legs of a backpedaling Frankie Hejduk to forward Angulo. Angulo touched it once and then struck it past a helpless Brad Friedel (Liverpool--England) to put Spain up 2-0 after just 25 minutes.
The U.S. had two good chances to strike across the first 35 minutes, but both were rendered ineffective when the forward duo of Josh Wolff (Chicago Fire--MLS) and Conor Casey (Univ. of Portland--NCAA) each tried to make one too many touches.
Trying to change momentum before the teams hit the locker room, Charles made two substitutions in the 39th minute, bringing on a pair of midfielders in Sasha Victorine (Los Angeles Galaxy--MLS) and Landon Donovan (Bayer Leverkusen--Germany) for Chris Albright (D.C. United--MLS) and Ramiro Corrales (NY/NJ MetroStars--MLS), who had started at left midfield for the injured Ben Olsen.
Like magic, the U.S. got a much-needed break just two minutes later. In the 41st minute, Casey took on a defender on the left and looped a ball across the box. Just as defender Frankie Hejduk brought the ball down with one deft touch, he was broadsided by defender La Cruz to set up a penalty kick, the third that the U.S. has earned in the tournament. As he's done four times in five games, including the crucial first goal in the 5-4 shootout win over Japan in the quarterfinals, Vagenas easily stroked it home, sending it to the right as Spain goalkeeper Aranzibia lid to cover the left side of the goal.
At the half, the stat sheet reflected only a combined three shots between the two sides, all of which accounted for the 2-1 score.
The second half started similar to the first, with Spain controlling possession and flow of the game. Mounting their first dangerous attack with less than three minutes passed gone by in the period, U.S. defender McCarty had to literally hold off the run of speedy forward Tamudo.
The yellow card he received for the foul was McCarty's second in two games, meaning he will have to sit out the final match. Defender Brian Dunseth (New England Revolution--MLS), who entered the tournament as the team captain but was sidelined just prior to the tournament's opening match with a groin injury, will likely get the start in the middle in his first action of the tournament.
Spain continued to own the match down to the wire, netting a third goal in the 87th minute on another breakdown in the U.S. defense. This time, active Jose Mari was on the other end of the score, slotting home the rebound of a shot by Tamudo that was headed for the upper right corner of the goal if Friedel hadn't tipped it away with both hands.
The U.S. Men's Olympic Team will have the day off tomorrow in an attempt to recover and conserve energy for Friday's bronze medal match versus Chile at the Football Stadium in Sydney. The team will resume training on Thursday, with a light morning session, before participating in two media events that afternoon in and around the Main Press Center at Olympic Park.
Chile, who finished on top of Group B after defeating Spain 3-1 in the opening round, entered their semifinal match as the tournament's highest-scoring team with 11 goals. Chile, who qualified with Brazil from the CONMEBOL (the South American Confederation), is led by perhaps the tournament's most talented player, Ivan Zamarano, who has leads all goal scorers with four in the Olympics.
In their semifinal tonight, they fell victim to Group C runner-up Cameroon, who continued their quest toward claiming the second consecutive gold medal for the continent of Africa. Cameroon beat Chile 2-1 on a late penalty kick goal, despite missing two starters who had received red cards in the African nation's somewhat shocking 9-man, 2-1 "golden goal" victory over tournament favorites Brazil last Saturday.
2000 U.S. MEN'S OLYMPIC TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Men's Olympic Team vs. Spain|
|Competition:||2000 Olympic Games - Semifinals|
|Venue:||Sydney Football Stadium (Sydney, Australia)|
|Date:||September 26, 2000 - Kickoff 8 p.m. (local)|
|Weather:||60 degrees - Raining, Chilly|
ESP - Tamudo, (Jose Mari), 16,
ESP - Angulo, (Jose Mari), 25,
USA - Peter Vagenas (penalty kick), 42,
ESP - Jose Mari (unassisted), 87.
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 (14-Sasha Victorine, 39), 12-Ramiro Corrales (13-Landon Donovan, 39); 17-Conor Casey, 16-Josh Wolff.
ESP - 1-Aranzubia; 2-La Cruz, 4-Marchena, 12-Puyol, 14-Amaya; 6-Albeda, 16-Toni Velamazan (Capt.; Ferron, 76), 7-Angulo (10-Gabri, 76), 8-Xavi; 9-Jose Mari (5-Unai, 88), 17-Tamudo.
|Chris Albright (caution)||8,|
|Chad McCarty (caution)||47,|
|Danny Califf (caution)||78,|