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2000 U.S. Olympic Team

Penalty kick decisive
for Chile which takes bronze medal 2-0.

Olympic Games soccer

Olympic men's analysis

Strong American effort unravels after needless penalty gives Chile lead.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Friday, September 29, 2000) -- For the first 65 minutes or so, the United States demonstrated it was capable of playing as well as any team in the Summer Olympics. In the bronze-medal match, the Americans played dead even for the first half and almost 20 minutes into the second half with Chile, probably the second-best team in the tournament after Spain, which it defeated in group play.

The U.S. played well on both ends with several quality chances on the offensive end. Defender Brian Dunseth and striker Conor Casey both came close, Dunseth hitting the crossbar and Casey forcing a good save by Chilean national keeper, 33-year-old Nelson Tapia.

On defense, with Dunseth in the middle and Danny Califf doing an exceptional job of keeping Chile's international star Ivan Zamorano in check, what few shots the U.S. yielded were easily handled by U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

Then, in quick order, things unraveled. First Califf showed his lack of experience and maturity by dishing out a totally unnecessary penalty in the left side of the box, taking down Sebastian Gonzalez who had already run himself out of the play. This allowed Zamorano to convert the penalty for a 1-0 lead and Chile never looked back.

When Clive Charles was forced to replace Califf with an attacker to try to get the equalizer, and series of short passes at the top of the box left Zamorano open for a shot which he hammered by Friedel from close range to insure the 2-0 victory for the bronze.

Several factors seem to contribute to the U.S. setback. Many of the starters have played virtually every minute of every match, and they simply had little left to give. Then too, the U.S. continued to try to push the ball up the wings and rarely attacked through the middle. When the outside U.S. players, Jeff Agoos and Ben Olsen on the left, and less often Chris Albright and Frankie Hedjuk on the right, did beat their men, there was little help in the middle.

Chile's skillful playmaker David Pizarro, caused the U.S. much difficulty in the midfield, but he never was able to connect with Zamorano until near the end. U.S. midfielder John O'Brien has be given much credit for that.

With the loss to Spain in the semifinals, the Americans fell to a better team. Tonight, that was not the case. Until the penalty call, the U.S. was not only in this match, but was playing what was probably a technically superior side even. It was a match that could have gone either way and the U.S. probably deserved better, but it was not to be.

Player ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Brad Friedel - 7.5: Played very well once again. Called on to make several good saves and controlled his area throughout the match. Cannot be faulted on penalty kick or late point-blank goal.

Defender Jeff Agoos - 7.5: Another strong outing. Gave up nothing on the left side of defense, covered in the middle, pushed forward on offense. Took free kicks. Over the entire tournament was probably the best, most consistent player for the U.S.

Defender Dan Califf - 6: Unspeakably stupid penalty possibly cost U.S. the bronze medal. That is a shame because he played, by far, his strongest match of the tournament, man-marking a world-class striker almost out of the match. The penalty showed his lack of maturity, but his quality of play tonight speaks of a brighter future.

Defender Brian Dunseth - 5.5: Showed he should have been playing if it was only on one leg. Helped steady the center of the U.S. defense. Did nothing spectacular and showed the effects of his two weeks on the bench, but helped the U.S. where it has needed the help.

Defender Frankie Hedjuk - 5: As he has been doing, made a few good defensive stops and a few good offensive thrusts, but was generally ineffective. Seemed worn down by the number of minutes he has played in the last two weeks.

Midfielder John O'Brien - 5.5: Also seemed to show the effects of too many minutes in too few days. Made some wonderful plays, both offensively and defensively, but simply did not have the energy to sustain any level of play over 90 minutes.

Midfielder Ben Olsen - 6: Played a strong match until he ran out of gas, still showing the effects of his injuries and lack of playing time the last few months. Was a constant threat, but received little support and could do little on his own. A game effort.

Midfielder Peter Vagenas - 4.5: Had almost no effect on the match. Looked tired from the start. Almost every pass he made was square to the outside or back to a defender. Did some good work in the defensive midfield, but added nothing to the offense.

Midfielder Chris Albright - 4.5: Continues to look completely out of place in the midfield. Was not able to create for himself or for others. The only times tonight he looked at all dangerous was when he played on top and people played the ball to him.

Forward Josh Wolff - 6: Pretty much a carbon copy of the match against Spain. Great effort, some effective work, a lot of chances, but again showed a lack of finishing and the inability to take on and beat quality defenders.

Forward Conor Casey - 5: Showed the world of promise he represents when at the start of the second half he controlled the ball in the center of the area, took two quick steps to the left freeing himself from two defenders and launched the best U.S. shot of the night which was barely saved by Chile goalkeeper Nelson Tapia. Great move, great shot, great save. That was about it for the night from Casey. He spent a lot of time wandering around on both wings, to little or no effect. He showed the complete inability to beat a defender head up, one on one. Often showed his lack of maturity and experience.

Reserves

Midfielder Sasha Victorine (61st minute) - 6.5: To some degree, it was his fresh legs, but over the last 25 minutes was the strongest player on the field for the U.S. As in his other short appearances here, his generally fine play raises the question as to why he was not a starter.

Midfielder Landon Donovan (81th minute) - no rating: Simply came on too late to have any impact.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com.

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