U.S. Olympic men
After 1-1 draw with Cameroon, it's beat Kuwait or head home.
CANBERRA, Australia (Saturday, September 16, 2000) -- After two games in group play, the United States men’s future is crystal clear: defeat Kuwait in Tuesday’s Group C finale to advance beyond the Summer Olympics preliminary round for the first time or head home.
Tonight, the U.S. tied highly-regarded Cameroon 1-1 after an exchange of penalty kicks before a sell-out crowd of 24,800 at Bruce Stadium.
Whether the U.S. wins or finishes second in the group with a victory against Kuwait depends on a combination of results. But one thing is certain: a tie or loss in Tuesday’s 5 a.m. (ET) meeting at the Melbourne Cricket Ground means its three-and-out for the Americans.
With Kuwait's 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic tonight, the U.S. team (0-2-0, 2 points) sits in third place behind Cameroon (1-1-0, 4 points) and Kuwait (1-0-1, 3 points). Combined with a U.S. win, Cameroon would win Group C by defeating the Czechs Tuesday. If Cameroon should tie the Czechs, a one-goal American triumph would create a virtual tie for the top spot; a U.S. decision by two or more goals and it would win the group.
The bonus for finishing atop Group C is not facing Brazil in the quarterfinals. The top team in Group C will probably face Slovakia, South Africa or Japan.
"I thought tonight's result was a better one for us than the other night," said U.S. coach Clive Charles. "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 area. This time, it came in the 16th minute before Cameroon had even taken a shot. Attacking midfielder Lauren Etame Mayer burst through the 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 minute. Striker Patrick Mboma stepped up and blasted the ball into the right corner as Brad Friedel guessed wrong and dove in the opposite direction, giving the African nation a 1-0 lead and momentum that would last through much of the first half.
"We were very disappointed not coming out of there with a win," Olsen said. "We're playing the right style of soccer. We're doing the right things, but it's not going in. We have to put this behind us and score against Kuwait."
The young Cameroon team exhibited blazing speed, creative dribbling and clever combinations in their attack, which centered on Mboma and also 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 had passed.
In the 24th minute, U.S. forward Conor Casey ran on to a ball and chipped over Cameroon goalkeeper Daniel Bekono into an open net, but it was disallowed after a questionable offside call. Two minutes later, midfielder John O'Brien served a ball that perfectly beat the offside 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 over the end line.
The hero of just three nights ago with a goal and an assist in the 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic, 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, he 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 one-on-one with the goalkeeper. This time, Bekono charged off his line to save Wolff's low, drive.
For the second straight outing, 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 Olsen overlapped to retrieve an Agoos pass, and sent it across the goal mouth. 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 end line.
On the ensuing corner kick, Olsen sent a looping ball to the head of 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 goal line by the defense.
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.
United States 1, Cameroon 1Lineups: United States - Brad Friedel, Jeff Agoos, Chad McCarty (captain), Danny Califf, Frankie Hejduk, John O'Brien, Peter Vagenas, Chris Albright, Ben Olsen, Conor Casey, Josh Wolff. Cameroon Daniel Bekono, Pierce Wome, Patrice Abanda, Aaron Nguimbat, Serge Mimpo, Nicolas Alnoudji, Geremi Njitap Fotso (captain), Lauren Etame Mayer, Joel Epalle (Daniel Ngom Kome 65), Samuel Eto'o Fils, Patrick Mboma (Modeste Mbami 77).
Shots: United States 19, Cameroon 8 Shots on goal: United States 9, Cameroon 2 Saves: United States 2, Cameroon 9. Corner kicks: United States 5, Cameroon 5. Fouls: United States 17, Cameroon 6. Offside: United States 6, Cameroon 4. Yellow card caution: Cameroon - Mimpo 41.
Referee: Mario Fernando Sanchez Yanten (Chile) Referee assistants: Jorge Maurelio Jaimes Aldave (Peru), Roumbout Hennissen (Belgium). Attendance: 24,800 at Bruce Stadium in Canberra, Australia. Weather: 68 degrees, cool, clear.