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List of Americans Abroad

Silly errors leave Americans tied with the Dutch, short of advancement.

Fortunate goal helps Americans open Games with victory over Japan.

Americans face difficult challenge, starting against Japan.

McCarty replaces injured Sturgis for Olympics.

Nowak selections for Olympics team contain few surprises.

With Adu leading the way, United States storms into Summer Olympics.

With Olympics berth at stake, Americans must get by Canada.

Last-second surprise sends U.S. past Honduras, one win from Olympics berth.

Lacking flow, U.S. still nears Olympic qualifying semifinals by blanking Panama.

U.S. under-23 men dominate action, but draw 1-1 with Cuba to open Olympic qualifying.

Nowak faces tough decisions as final Olympics qualifying cuts near.

Bradley learns much about his U.S. team in 2-2 draw with Mexico.

Despite lackluster effort, U.S. must be satisfied in shutout of Sweden.

World Cup qualifying will begin in June against Barbados or Dominica.

Despite so-so effort, U.S. defeats South Africa on Cherundolo goal.

Youth is served as U.S. kids combine to beat Switzerland.

Bradley's first goal comes late, defeats Switzerland 1-0.

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U.S. Olympic men

Foolish red card leaves Americans short in eliminating loss to Nigeria.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, August 13, 2008) -- For the second match in a row, the United States was undone by a mental error. Largely as a result of defender Michael Orozco's red card in the third minute, the shorthanded Americans were at a disadvantage throughout the 2-1 Group B loss to Nigeria that eliminated the U.S. from the advancement to the Summer Olympics quarterfinals.

Had Japan defeated or tied the Netherlands, the U.S. would have still made the quarterginals, but the Dutch used a second-half goal to defeat Japan 1-0.

In Beijing, Orozco threw an elbow into the chest of Solomon Okoronko and was promptly ejected with a red card at the onset. It was not a heavy blow, and in the Mexican league where Orozco plays would hardly have been noticed. But in this Olympics, the referees have been told very specifically to penalize thrown elbows and the players had been warned that the referees would call elbows very closely.

Orozco chose to throw his elbow right in front of German referee Wolfgang Starg. While the red card he received might be viewed as unusually harsh, Orozco was dumb to have thrown it.

The U.S. was already playing without attackers Freddy Adu and Michael Bradley, both of whom had accumulated two yellow cards and were suspended for the match. U.S. coach Peter Novak dropped winger Robbie Rogers back into defense on the left side and the shorthanded Americans tried to go into a defensive shell, hoping for a draw or a counter-attacking goal or dead-ball opportunity.

They made it through 39 minutes when Nigeria's best player, Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi rounded Michael Parkhurst on the left side, brought the ball into the penalty area on the end line and centered to a wide-open Promise Isaac in the middle for an easy tap-in goal and 1-0 lead.

Once again, converted midfielder Maurice Edu showed he lacks the instincts of a central defender when he stood ball watching and allowed Isaac to run in behind him and get off the unguarded shot.

Victor Obinna similarly felt no pressure in the box when he curled a shot into the corner for the net for a 2-0 advantage in the 79th minute.

In the second half, the U.S. tried to come back, especially after it became know that the Netherlands had gone ahead in its match with Japan. If the Dutch tied or lost, the Americans would have advanced regardless of their result. If the Netherlands won, the U.S. needed a victory to stay alive.

In the 88th minute, the U.S. pulled to within 2-1 on a Sacha Kljestan penalty kick and nearly tied the game when late substitute Charlie Davies hit the crossbar with a sharply-struck header off a free kick.

The early expulsion of Orozco and the suspension of the Adu and Bradley, two of the Americans best, caused an odd lineup and a completely defensive game. Down a man, Nowak made a substitution that saw striker Jozy Altidore depart in favor of defensive midfielder Benny Feilhaber.

That change was hard to understand with the U.S. a goal down. Feilhaber played well and helped tighten up the U.S. defense, but the U.S. was pretty much without an attack until Davies entered in the 77th minute. He was a handful for Nigeria and one might wonder why he was not inserted earlier.

Perhaps the post-game hand-wringing over the Americans' ouster is fairly academic. Had they come back and tied Nigeria to advance, their quarterfinal opponent Saturday would have been Argentina. Had they defeated Nigeria, the U.S. opponent would have been the Ivory Coast. The two have been among the very best in China during group play. By not getting out of the Group B, the U.S., at best, probably hastened their trip home only by four days.


U.S. player ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan - 7: Under constant pressure, he did all that could be expected. As in the 2-2 draw against the Netherlands, he could not be faulted on either goal..

Defender Marvell Wynne - 6: Far and away his best game of the competition both offensively and defensively.

Defender Michael Orozco - 1: He showed Okoronko how tough he is. Too bad referee Starg was staring right at him.

Defender Maurice Edu - 5: Playing out of position, probably not much more could have been asked of him. But with a veteran defender in his spot and Edu in the midfield would have been a stronger combination.

Defender Michael Parkhurst - 5.5: Played very well except for moving too slowly and getting rounded by Obasi for the first Nigeria goal.

Midfielder Danny Szetela - 5.5: Played very hard and was effective in almost entirely a defensive role dictated by the Americans' shorthanded state.

Midfielder Robbie Rogers - 5: Was pressed into duty as a defender and actually held his own under quite a bit of pressure from the very fast Nigerians. Should have been a bit more effective offensively but, under the unusual circumstances, did well.

Midfielder Stuart Holden - 5.5: Generally a good performance, but was not able to take advantage of his few chances and often gave the ball up in the crowded midfield.

Midfielder Sacha Kljestan - 6: Kept plugging away and trying to attack when most of the U.S. was back on its heels. His penalty kick was true.

Forward Jozy Altidore - 5.5: With the U.S. defending frantically during the first half, he received no service whatsoever and had little effect before giving way at halftime.

Forward Brian McBride - 6.5: The oldest player at this Olympics, he ran himself ragged dropping deep into the midfield to play defense. He too got little service so his offensive effectiveness was limited.

Reserves

Midfielder Benny Feilhaber (46th minute for Altidore) - 5.5: Was very active in the defense and generally did well. Had some problems with the pace at times and his passing left a bit to be desired, but generally he contributed a solid half.

Midfielder Dax McCarty (69th minute for Szetela) - 5.5: Came in to play solid defense while pushing forward and generally accomplished that late.

Forward Charlie Davies (77th minute for Holden) - 6: Caused Nigeria many problems over the final 10 minutes and came oh so close when his potentially tying header hit the crossbar. Maybe we should have seen more of him in the competition.

SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Brad Guzan.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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