RICH FIDLER - Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Freddy Adu celebrates his lone goal with
The US couldn't capitalize on numerous opportunities against Cuba on Thursday night and settled for a disappointing draw in their opening game of the 2008 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament.
Head coach Peter Nowak started the match with four forwards on the field, though the lone striker up top was Jozy Altidore who was flanked on the wings by Robbie Findley and Charlie Davies while Vfl Wolfsburg striker Kamani Hill played an unfamiliar right-back role.
The Americans started brightly with Benfica's Freddy Adu striking the post with a left-footed rocket just two minutes after the opening whistle. Altidore was sent free of the Cuban back-line five minutes later but his weak effort was easily saved by Cuban keeper Jose Manuel Miranda.
In the 14th minute the US finally got on the scoreboard when Adu played a quick, short corner. The ball was played back to the creative midfielder and his blast from just outside the edge of the penalty area rifled past a litany of defenders and settled in the opposite side netting.
Adu nearly scored his second goal of the game 17 minutes later when his free-kick was parried wide by the keeper. Davies, a striker for Hammarby in Sweden was played through with six minute until half-time. Miranda came out to challenge for the ball and Davies immediately went down with little contact, he was awarded a yellow card by Guatemalan center official Walter Lopez for the dive.
Cuba would score the stunning equalizer minutes before the half when the American defense and midfield fell asleep allowing Yordany Alvarez in to the box. The strike by the outside of the midfielder's right foot would find Roberto Linares lurking in the area, and he nicked the ball past a stunned Chris Seitz who had seen little action previously.
The start of the second half brought the first change of the game, when Nowak took off Altidore and replaced him with midfielder Sacha Kljestan. Adu nearly scored his second in the 54th minute when his blast off a knock-down from Maurice Edu skipped just wide of the far post.
Findley, a striker for Real Salt Lake, beat the off-sides trap a minute later for the best chance the Americans would have in the second half. Unfortunately the youngster saw his weak shot from the top of the penalty area easily saved by the Cuban keeper.
The Red, White and Blue continued pushing forward later in the second half but a swerving strike by Dax McCarty was pushed wide in the 70th minute and Findley couldn't climb high enough to reach a cross from second half substitute Chad Barrett.
Barrett scored what appeared to be the second goal of the match, but it was called back after the Chicago Fire striker was called offside when Hill played a chip over the stagnant Cuban defense. Cuba was reduced to 10 men late in the game when Linares picked up a second yellow card in the 86th minute.
Adu nearly stole the victory in stoppage time when the former Major League Soccer teenager's left-footed free-kick from just outside the penalty area sailed inches wide of the post.
Nowak's squad will now look to regroup against Panama, who is coming off a 1-0 defeat to Honduras in the earlier game, on Thursday night.