"I thought we played quite well in the first half," said head coach Clive Charles, who has guided the U-23s to a 7-4-1 record in overall matches this year. "We had some guys go down in the second half, and it was just a matter of surviving the game at that point.
"The most important thing is that I was able to get another good look at these players," added Charles, of the impending Aug. 15 announcement of the 18-man Olympic roster. "Everyone that's here will be seriously considered for the final roster. Right now, I've still got to get 24 (players) down to 18."
Lining up in their usual 4-4-2, the U.S. side controlled the match from the outset, pushing forward and maintaining almost constant possession from whistle to whistle in the first half.
Paired with speedy Josh Wolff up front, the 6'1" Casey was an immediately offensive threat, making continuous runs at the Bolton defense and causing serious match-up problems.
It didn't take long for the U.S. to break through. Following a corner kick clearance in the Bolton end, defender Brian Dunseth sent a ball that looped across the box and bounced . Although no U.S. players could get a foot on the chest-high cross, Casey quickly tracked the loose ball down near the endline. With his back to the goal, the 18-year-old University of Portland sophomore deftly back-heeled a slow roller to defensive midfielder Sasha Victorine at the near post. Victorine shielded the ball from Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, turned and slipped it inside the post in the 19th minute.
A painful tribute to Casey's effectiveness was performed in the 29th minute, when Wanderers defender Gundi Bergsson obstructed and then threw a nasty elbow that leveled Casey a few yards outside the top of the penalty box, leaving no doubt about a red card ejection.
U.S. Men's National Team defender Jeff Agoos helped steady a new-look backline that also included team captain Brian Dunseth, Danny Califf and Evan Whitfield, as Bolton only mustered two shots in the first half.
The banged-up U.S. team entered the match missing three starters - goalkeeper Adin Brown (strained quadricep), midfielder Ben Olsen (ankle) and defender Chad McCarty (foot) - as well as European-based midfielder John Thorrington (strained hamstring), who came to the U.S. on tryout with Bolton but suffered a strained hamstring earlier in the week.
Due these injuries and injuries Bolton has suffered since arriving in the Midwest for their weeklong training camp, the U.S. intentionally started the second half with just 10 players. Each team would then make free substitutions throughout the rest of the match.
The playing field was further evened when U.S. defender Danny Califf made a dangerously high lunging challenge on Bolton forward Ian Woan, leaving the home side with just nine players after a 59th minute red card ejection.
After midfielder Joey DiGiamarino was taken off the field with an injury in the 62nd minute, reducing the U.S. to eight players, the U.S. spent the next 10 minutes admirably denying the recharged Bolton offense in a decidedly defensive stance.
Upon DiGiamarino's return, the U.S. defense settled down and was able to produce a number of effective counter-attacks. Casey had a golden opportunity to put the U.S. up 2-0 in the 86th minute, after he collected a loose ball on the Bolton end, but after charging into the box all alone with just the 'keeper to beat, his quick blast sailed high over the crossbar.
The U.S. Under-23 team will return to their respective professional teams until mid-August, when the final 18-man Olympic roster will be announced and the team will meet one last time for a training camp and exhibition to be announced in the next two weeks.
When they arrive in Australia in September, the young but experienced U.S. squad will be looking to advance to the second round of the Olympics for the first time in history. Team USA, who were placed in Group C, will kick things off against the Czech Republic in Canberra on Sept. 13, the first day of Olympic competition. The team will then face Cameroon on Sept. 16 in Canberra and will meet Kuwait on Sept. 19 in Melbourne to finish the "round robin"-style group play of the opening round.
The Men's Soccer competition will be played across five cities (Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney) and is scheduled to run from Sept. 13 to the final at the Sydney Olympic Stadium on Sept. 30. The quarter-finals will be on Sept. 23, with the semi's on Sept. 26 and third place on Sept. 29.
2000 U.S. UNDER-23 MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. U-23 Men's National Team vs. Bolton Wanderers F.C.|
|Venue:||Kuntz Stadium (Indianapolis, Ind.)|
|Date:||July 30, 2000 - Kickoff 5:30 p.m. (CT)|
|Weather:||78 degrees - warm, humid|
USA - Sasha Victorine, (Conor Casey), 19.
USA - 18-Tim Howard (24-Matt Napoleon, 46); 12-Jeff Agoos (5-Ramiro Corrales, 46), 4-Danny Califf (ejected, 59), 2-Brian Dunseth (Capt.), 8-Evan Whitfield; 10-Peter Vagenas (6--DaMarcus Beasley, 46), 15-Sasha Victorine, 11-Chris Albright, 7-Joey DiGiamarino; 17-Conor Casey, 16-Josh Wolff (removed, 46).
BOL - 1-Jussi Jaaskelainen; 6-John O'Kane (15-Liam Richardson, 46), 3-Simon Charlton, 4-Paul Warhurst, 5-Gudni Bergsson (ejected, 24); 8-Per Frandsen (Capt.), 7-Anthony Barness (12-Franck Passi, 46), 2-Robbie Elliott, 11-Ian Woan (10-Michael Ricketts, 60); 10-Michael Ricketts (14-Micahel Farrelly, 26), 9-Bo Hansen.
|Gundi Bergsson (ejection)||24,|
|Danny Califf (ejection)||59.|