U.S. Olympic men
Americans advance into quarterfinals for the first time, beating Kuwait 3-1.
MELBOURNE, Australia (Tuesday, September 19, 2000) -- The United States men advanced from Summer Olympics preliminary group play for the first time ever and did it convincingly, tonight, riding goals by Danny Califf, Chris Albright and Landon Donovan to a 3-1 triumph over Kuwait in the two nations’ Group C finale before a cold, rain-soaked crowd of 19,684 at the massive Melbourne Cricket Ground.
This American 11, an under-23 side with three "overage" players, accomplished something that hadn't been done by a U.S. side since preliminary group play was added to the Olympic Games in 1960. With a 1-0-2 mark for five points, the Americans won their group with a plus-two goal differential, one better than Cameroon (1-0-2, after tying the Czech Republic 1-1) which also advanced to the quarterfinals.
The U.S. will meet Group D runnerup Japan Saturday at 5 a.m. (ET) in the quarterfinals.
Entering the match, the U.S. had only two draws to show for its efforts, despite dominating Czech Republic (a 2-2 tie) and Cameroon (1-1). If Kuwait had won or tied, it would have moved ahead and the Americans would have been done. As the first half drew to a close, the Americans seemed to be following the same script: domination with failure on many solid scoring chances.
The game changed for the U.S. in the 30th minute with the long-awaited and much-talked-about Olympic debut of former U.S. under-17 scoring sensation Donovan, who replaced bruising forward Conor Casey. With the early substitution, the U.S. attack became more direct and resembled a 4-3-3, with Donovan in the middle as a withdrawn forward.
Ten minutes later, the U.S. recorded the crucial first when "overage" defender Jeff Agoos sent a perfect in-swinging cross to defender Califf who rose to head home a shot that 19-year-old goalkeeper Shehab Kankone, who came off his line too late to punch the cross clear.
In what has become a familiar story line, the U.S. entered the locker room dominating with a 10-2 edge in shots and an 8-0 advantage in corner kicks, but only the slim 1-0 edge.
Sensing at least another goal just around the corner, the U.S. squad immediately stepped things up after intermission. Less than 10 seconds from the kickoff, midfielder Peter Vagenas slid a ball to a streaking Albright whose shot was high over the crossbar, but set the tone for the aggressive American attack.
In the 63rd minute, Albright connected on his second goal of the tournament to make it 2-0. Following a quick throw-in from Agoos, midfielder John O'Brien played a long ball down the left flank that Albright ran down near the endline. Just as he caught up to the pass, he deflty tucked it under the legs of a sliding Kankone and it rolled across the goal line.
Just as the U.S. was getting comfortable and the clock showed ticked below 10 minutes remaining, Kuwait struck back on the counterattack with a goal from second-half substitute forward Najem Bader to narrow its deficit to 2-1 in the 83rd minute.
With Kuwait needing one more tally to advance, it pushed forward, but striker Josh Wolff put an end to the Kuwaitis hopes, sending a perfect through ball to Donovan, who cracked it into an open net in the 88th minute to finalize the count at 3-1.
As the Group C winner, the U.S. men travel west to Adelaide to await the Group D runnerup for a match at Hindmarsh Stadium Saturday at 5 a.m. (ET). The match will be televised via tape delay in an Olympic coverage window between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on MSNBC or from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on CNBC.
With Japan, Brazil, South Africa and Slokavia all set to play in Group D tomorrow night with no positions set, the U.S. will have to wait another 24 hours to find out its opponent.
United States 3, Kuwait 1Lineups: United States - Brad Friedel, Jeff Agoos, 3-Chad McCarty (captain), Danny Califf, Frankie Hejduk, John O'Brien, Peter Vagenas, Chris Albright, Ben Olsen (Joey DiGiamarino 62); Conor Casey (Landon Donovan 30), Josh Wolff. Kuwait - Shehab Kankone, Jamal Andulrahman, Esam Alkandan, Sadoun Slaman, Salem Alburaiki, Hamad Altayyar (Naser Alomran 66), Naser Alothman, Adel Al-Anezi, Bashar Abdulaziz (Bader Najem 68), Faraj Saeid, Khalaf Almutairi.
Shots: United States 17, Kuwait 8. Shots on goal: United Stats 9, Kuwait 6. Saves: United States 5, Kuwait 6. Fouls: United States 19, Kuwait 9. Offside: United States 4, Kuwait 4. Corner kicks: United States 10, Kuwait 1 Yellow card cautions: United States - Vagenas 27; Kuwait - Abdulaziz 54.
Referee: Herbert Fandel (Germany). Referee assistants: Mulumba Ali Tomusange (Uganda), Komaleeswaran Sankar (Indonesia). Attendance: 19,684 at Melbourne (Australia) Cricket Ground. Weather: 62 degrees, rainy, cold.