USA Advances to Final of 2008 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Freddy Adu Scores Two Free-kick Strikes, Leads Tournament With Four Goals in as Many Games
U.S. Picks Up Third-Consecutive Shut Out in Victory Without Letting Up a Shot on Goal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 20, 2008) – The U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team clinched a berth to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing this evening after defeating Canada, 3-0, at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., in the semifinals of CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying.
Freddy Adu led the way for the U.S., scoring the first two goals on free kicks in the 27th and 48th minutes, while Sacha Kljestan finished off the Canadians with a close-range strike in the 78th minute.
The victory marks the 13th time the U.S. will get the chance to compete for a medal at the Olympic Games on the men's side. The 2008 Beijing Olympics will be played from Aug. 8-24 in five venues, and will mark the USA's first trip to the Men's Olympic Football Tournament since 2000.
"I was really proud and pleased to see everything that we had discussed before this kind of tournament come to fruition," said U.S. head coach Peter Nowak. "I think that from the beginning to the end there was only one team that was going to win this game, and it was us."
The U.S. moves on to the championship match on Sunday, March 23 against Honduras, who also qualified for the Olympics this evening by defeating Guatemala in penalty kicks, 6-5, after a scoreless 120 minutes in regulation and overtime. The final will kick off at 4 p.m. CT at LP Field and will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN Deportes.
The U.S. had little time to warm up on the field before the game due to the first match of the doubleheader going long, but that fact didn't slow down the U.S. attack led by Jozy Altidore and Adu. Altidore set up both of Adu's free kicks with determined runs that forced Canadian defenders to bring him down just outside the penalty area. Adu's brace made him the tournament leader with four goals in as many games.
Altidore set up Adu's first free kick goal of the night when he was tripped up by Nikolas Ledgerwood near the right corner of the penalty area. Adu whipped an in-swinger towards the goalmouth that skipped in front of goalkeeper Joshua Wagenaar, who may have been frozen by Kljestan's attempt to get a foot on the service. Kljestan ended up not getting to it in time, and Wagenaar's late reaction allowed the ball to get past him and land in the far-left netting.
Learning from their first match of the tournament against Cuba, the U.S. didn't take their foot off the pedal and pressured Canada's backline during the rest of first half. Their continued pressure was evident just two minutes after Adu's goal when Altidore hustled after a bobbled shot by Wagenaar and clashed with the 'keeper and two defenders.
The game started to get a bit chippy, but the U.S. defense was able to overpower most challenges that came their way. Canada only got two shots off in the first half – and nine in the entire game – and none of them on goal, meaning U.S. goalkeeper Chris Seitz didn't have to make single save while earning his second shutout of the tournament. Through four matches in the qualifying tournament, the U.S. held their opponents scoreless three times.
The U.S. didn't give Canada a chance to catch their breath in the second half, coming after them right from the second half whistle in an attempt to double their lead. Adu was given an early chance two minutes in when Altidore was taken down near the top of the box after beating Canada defender Andrew Hainault, resulting in a yellow card for the captain and a 20-yard free kick for the Benfica-based midfielder. Adu curled his shot over the wall and into the upper-right corner, giving Wagenaar no chance to make the save.
"Jozy made two great runs that resulted in two free kicks," said Adu. "Jozy made a great run and the build up was great. We had a little bit of possession and the ball ended up at Jozy's feet. He turned around ran at the guy and got the foul."
With the Canadians against the ropes and struggling to mount a comeback, the USA took advantage of a break to score its third goal of the game. Adu played a ball out wide left to Stuart Holden, who held the ball while waiting for help before feeding a square ball to Kljestan who darted into the box. Kljestan did the rest, taking a perfect first touch past his defender and firing a low shot to the near left post.
Kljestan leads the team in minutes played with 315 throughout the tournament. The midfielder came on at halftime of the USA's first match against Cuba, and has played every minute since.
Nowak used his fourth different lineup in as many games, inserting Jonathan Spector into the central defense along with Michael Orozco. A veteran of two World Youth Championships, Spector made his first-ever appearance with the U-23s tonight after joining up with the team in Nashville.
"It's exciting. Everyone is really happy right now, we're all really confident that we're going to Beijing now," said Kljestan. "We're happy to finally celebrate with Coach Nowak and we're all just excited. The whole tournament our team unity was good."
The U.S. and Honduras join 13 other teams who have already entered the 16-team tournament, with one spot still up for grabs for a team from Africa. The draw for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament will take place on April 20 in Beijing.
- U.S. UNDER-23 MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT -
USA vs. Canada
2008 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying
LP Field - Nashville, Tenn.
March 20, 2008
60 degrees, clear
1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
CAN 0 0 0
USA – Freddy Adu (unassisted) 27th minute
USA – Freddy Adu (unassisted) 48.
USA – Sacha Kljestan (Stuart Holden) 78.
1-Chris Seitz; 2-Marvell Wynne, 3-Michael Orozco, 17-Jonathan Spector, 5-Nathan Sturgis; 16-Sacha Kljestan (14-Robbie Findley, 88) , 6-Maurice Edu (capt.), 10-Dax McCarty, 7-Stuart Holden; 11-Freddy Adu (20-Eddie Gaven, 82) 12-Jozy Altidore (9-Charlie Davies, 75)
Subs not used: 4-Patrick Ianni, 8-Sal Zizzo. 13-Hunter Freeman, 18-Dominic Cervi
Head Coach: Peter Nowak
18-Joshua Wagenaar; 2-Graham Ramalho (9-Andrea Lombardo, 54), 4-Dejan Jakovic, 5-Andrew Hainault (capt.), 6-Nikolas Ledgerwood, 7-Andrazes Ornoch, 10-Will Johnson, 11-Tosaint Ricketts, 14-Tyler Hemming, 15-Tyler Roselund (17-Marcus Haber, 76), 16-Keegan Ayre (13-Kyle Hall, 30)
Subs not used: 3-Jacob Lensky, 8-Ryan Gyaki, 12-Diaz Kambere, 22-David Monsalve
Head Coach: Nick Dasovic
USA / CAN
Shots on Goal: 7/0
Corner Kicks: 10/7