Olsen (D.C. United, MLS) snuck in at the far right post in the 92nd minute and slammed home the tying goal after Brian McBride (Columbus Crew, MLS) and John O'Brien (Ajax Amsterdam, Holland) worked the ball through a crowded six-yard box as time expired. The goal was the third of Olsen's fourteen-game international career.
O'Brien, who was named Chevrolet Man of the Match in his first start with the full national team, performed well in the midfield, creating several chances with his accurate passing. His through ball to Jason Kreis in the 25th minute provided the Americans with their first good scoring opportunity of the match, but Kreis' shot sailed just over the bar.
The two teams could manage only one shot on goal in the first half, a long-range effort from Eddie Lewis in the 42nd minute that forced a save.
Tunisia broke the deadlock in the 78th minute on a goal created by 20-year-old Ali Zitouni. Zitouni started the scoring play on the left flank near the midfield stripe, stripping the ball from Chris Armas before darting toward the top of the 18-yard box. Zitouni looked to shoot, but instead pushed the ball with the outside of his right foot to Maher Kanzari, who slipped the ball back across the box and inside the left post with a low shot. The goal came on Tunisia's only shot on target during the match.
The USA had several chances to score in the match, played before a predominately pro-American crowd for the first time this year, but found the net only once. Jason Kreis (Dallas Burn, MLS) and Chad Deering (Dallas Burn, MLS) both squandered good opportunities after poor clearances by the Tunisian goalkeeper.
"We created some great chances today against a team that gets numbers behind the ball and picks their spots well," said head coach Bruce Arena after the game. "Their goalkeeper came up with a number of good saves."
"I was just sitting there hoping the ball would come to me, and there it comes rolling up perfectly," Olsen said of his goal. "This was an important goal for me."
With the draw, the United States extended its record in the United States to 6-1-4 under Arena.
"We made some progress here today, which was encouraging," Arena continued. "There were a lot of positives, and as we continue to move forward I'm getting closer to knowing which players will make up the player pool for World Cup qualifying."
Cobi Jones, who was replaced by Ben Olsen at the start of the second half, saw his five-game scoring streak snapped in the scoreless first half.
The United States will next travel to Moscow, Russia, for an international friendly match on April 26. That match, which will be shown live in the United States on pay-per-view at 11:00 a.m. (ET), will mark the American's first-ever trip to Moscow for a full international.
2000 U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Men's National Team vs. Tunisia National Team|
|Venue:||Legion Field (Birmingham, Alabama)|
|Date:||March 12, 2000 - kickoff 1:30 p.m. (CT)|
|Weather:||54 degrees - Clear, Brisk|
TUN - Maher Kanzari, (Ali Zitouni), 78,
USA - Ben Olsen, (John O'Brien), 92+.
USA - 1-Tony Meola; 16-Carlos Llamosa, 4-Robin Fraser, 6-David Regis; 13-Cobi Jones (Capt.) (19-Ben Olsen, 46), 14-Chris Armas, 2-John O'Brien, 15-Chad Deering (11-Chris Albright, 62), 7-Eddie Lewis; 20-Brian McBride, 8-Jason Kreis.
TUN - 1-Chorki El Quaer; 2-Kahled Badra, 6-Mohamed Mkacher, 15-Radhi Jaidi, 17-Tarek Thabet; 10-Kaies Ghodbane (18-Maher Kanzari, 58), 12-Raouf Bouzayene, 14-Sirajeddine Chihi; 7-Imed Mhedhebi, 19-Hassen Gabsi, 20-Zied Jaziri (9-Ali Zitouni, 58).
|Maher Kanzari (caution)||92+.|
BRUCE ARENA - U.S. Men's National Team head coach
On the match: "Late in the game, before we scored the goal, I turned to my assistant coach (Dave Sarachan) and said I was very happy some of the things we had done in the game. We can take some good things out of the game. We knew what to expect from Tunisia and we knew this game was going to be a '1-0' type game. They're a team that is very organized in the back and they pick their spots to counterattack. Which is what they did, and how they got their goal."
"Their goalkeeper came up with a number of good saves, and we created a number of chances through McBride and Kreis. I liked the way that John O'Brien combined with Chris Armas, and Eddie Lewis was good again today."
On DaMarcus Beasley not getting in the match: "We had planned to use DaMarcus in the match, possibly as a forward, and if the game had been tied at the end, he would have played. But with us down 1-0, that is not the kind of situation to put a young player into. We knew at the end we would be attacking from the flanks with a lot of crosses into the box, so the timing wasn't right to put him in. With young players like DaMarcus you need to put them in the right situations to succeed and today wasn't the right time. But DaMarcus was very good all week in training and he is going to be a very special player."
On the pro-American crowd in Alabama: "It has been a longtime since we've played in front of totally pro-American crowd like this one. The atmosphere was very good ... 21,000 is a great crowd for a market this size. It is important for us to continue to develop markets like this for our teams."
JOHN O'BRIEN - Midfielder U.S. National Team
On his assist: "I saw that the ball was rolling over to Ben and I saw a big smile coming up on his face, so I knew that ball was going in the net."
On the fact that Tunisia's only shot on goal of the game was a goal: "That's the way it goes sometimes in soccer. But we played much better in the second half, than we did in the first. We moved the ball around much better, and our player moved around much better. We deserved the result."
BEN OLSEN - Midfielder U.S. Men's National Team
On his third international goal: "I was just sitting there hoping the ball would come to me ... and then here it comes rolling up perfectly. This was an important goal for me. It was important for me to show well today and to show Bruce that I am still in it and can compete for a spot. I wasn't feeling pressure, but when I don't play well I am honest with myself about it, and I recognized that I needed to get back on the ball."