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2000 U.S. Olympic Team

United States is simply outclassed in semifinal by talented Spaniards.

Olympic Games soccer

U.S. Olympic men

Spain stifles American gold medal hopes with dominant 3-1 triumph.

SYDNEY, Australia (Tuesday, September 26, 2000) – The United States men’s improbable run to the Summer Olympics semifinals came to a distinct halt tonight when Spain thumped the Americans 3-1 before a sellout crowd of 39,800 soaked fans in a chilly downpour at Sydney Football Stadium.

Playing in their fifth game in 13 days, a the Americans were no match for a more-talented, more-experienced, more-fit Spanish side which will meet Cameroon for the gold medal.

"We just never got out of the starting blocks,"
-- Coach Clive Charles' on tonight's effort
The Americans were so thoroughly dominated, they managed only one shot on goal in the match -- Pete Vagenas’ 42nd minute penalty kick that narrowed their deficit to 2-1 before the break.

Chile, which lost 2-1 to Cameroon in the other semifinal will be the U.S.’s opponent in Friday’s bronze medal match.

"We lost to a very good team tonight," U.S. coach Clive Charles said. "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.

"We're thinking about (Chile) now. We didn't talk about this game after it was over, because it's gone. We don't worry about it. We've done too well to dwell on the negative. We're just thinking, starting now, preparing our bodies to play for a bronze medal."

Tonight’s match was a physical one from the onset with two yellow cards issued in the first 10 minutes. The midfield was more like a battlefield, with dangerous challenges from both sides. After 15 minutes, the rugged play had already added up to 10 fouls between both teams.

The skillful Spaniards were more aggressive from the beginning and it showed when they took advantage of a U.S. giveaway and quickly and efficiently scored on their first shot. In the 16th minute, midfielder Jose Mari stripped U.S. defender Danny Califf 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 and Frankie Hejduk to the back post, where forward Tamuro lunged and knocked it into the roof of the net with the outside of his right foot for a 1-0 lead.

Less than 10 minutes later, Spain’s second shot made it 2-0. Again, it was Califf who was beaten and again, it was Jose Mari who made him pay. This time, however, 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 from close range.

"We just never got out of the starting blocks," Charles said. "We were just a tad off in basically everything. It didn't make any difference who ... you know we brought people on. Everyone was just ... they were a yard quicker than us."

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 and Conor Casey each tried to make one too many touches. Trying to change momentum before the teams hit the lockerroom, Charles made two substitutions in the 39th minute, bringing on a pair of midfielders in Sasha Victorine and Landon Donovan for Chris Albright and Ramiro Corrales, who had started at left midfield for the injured Ben Olsen.

"Yeah, well, we went two-nil down and I thought, ‘Do we make some changes at halftime or now?' Charles said. "Whenever you make them with 10 minutes left to go in the half, you're always giving the other team an opportunity to maybe figure out what you're doing at halftime. The way we were playing, we needed to inject a little bit more into the team, so we made the two substitutions and we got a goal. But we just couldn't step on it."

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 Hejduk brought the ball down with one deft touch, he was broadsided by defender La Cruz to set up a penalty kick, the third for the U.S. in the tournament.

As he'd done four times in five games, including the crucial first goal in the 5-4 penalty-kick shootout win over Japan in the quarterfinals, Vagenas easily stroked it home, sending it to the right as Spain goalkeeper Aranzibia slid to cover the other 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 its first dangerous attack in the third minute of 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 bronze medal match. Defender Brian Dunseth, 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, an 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.

Spain 3, United States 1

Lineups: United States - Brad Friedel, Jeff Agoos, Chad McCarty (captain), Danny Califf, Frankie Hejduk, John O'Brien, Peter Vagenas, Chris Albright (Sasha Victorine 39), Ramiro Corrales (Landon Donovan 39), Conor Casey, Josh Wolff. Spain - Aranzubia, La Cruz, Marchena, Puyol, Amaya, Albeda, Toni Velamazan - captain (Ferron 76), Angulo (Gabri 76), Xavi, Jose Mari (Unai 88), Tamudo.

Spain - Tamudo 16.
Spain - Angulo 25.
United States - Vagenas (penalty kick) 42.
Spain - Jose Mari 87.

Shots: United States 5, Spain 10. Shots on goal:United States 1, Spain 6. Saves: United States 3, Spain 0 Corner kicks: United States 4, Spain 4 Fouls: United States 25, Spain 23. Offside: United States 2, Spain 6. Yellow card cautions: United States - Albright 8, McCarty 47, Califf 78; Spain - Marchena 9, Amaya 65, Ferron 88.

Referee: Mourad Daami (Tunisia). Referee’s assistants: Jorge Horacio Rattalino (Argentina), Mulumba Ali Tomusange (Uganda). Attendance: 39,800 at Sydney (Australia) Football Stadium. Weather: 60 degrees; raining, chilly.

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