RICH FIDLER - Thursday, March 20, 2008
The United States have booked a trip to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, following a two-goal performance from 18-year old standout Freddy Adu and a late goal from Sacha Kljestan.
Head coach Peter Nowak adjusted his starting eleven for the semifinals, welcoming Jonathan Spector to the center of defensive with Michael Orozco while Nathan Sturgis and Marvell Wynne manned the outside positions.
Adu, Kljestan and Stuart Holden played just in front of Dax McCarty and Maurice Edu in the midfield on Thursday night in Nashville.
New York striker Josmer Altidore was the lone forward in the former DC United's head mans lineup that began the match.
The American team would start strong, as Edu laid a ball off to Adu early in the match that the midfielder would strike with a first-time blast. The arching ball sailed just over the crossbar to keep the game scoreless in the opening minutes.
Adu wouldn't wait long, getting his first goal in the 27th minute when Altidore was fouled just outside the right-corner of the penalty area. The Benfica midfielder used his left foot to bend the ball in to the box, and with traffic in the area, the ball skipped past a startled Canadian keeper Joshua Wagenaar and in to the back of the net.
The team fed off the home crowd and Altidore nearly played himself through just before the half, but for a lunging tackle from Canadian defender Nikolas Ledgerwood that saved the neighbors to the north from going down two goals at halftime.
Just three minutes after the intermission, the former DC United teenager was at it again, only this time he lined up for a free-kick 20-yards from goal. After Houston's Holden faked a right-footed blast, Adu used his left to curl the ball over the defensive wall and past an out-stretched Wagenaar for his fourth goal of the tournament.
Holden would become provider in the 78th minute when his dazzling moves down the left-hand side allowed him to break free before providing a pinpoint pass to a streaking Kljestan.
The CD Chivas midfielder snuck past defender Andrew Hainault before smashing home a near post shot that beat a helpless Wagenaar.
Altidore would be the first American to leave the field, being replaced by Hammarby's Charlie Davies, before Adu would leave to thunderous applause with just minutes to play to make way for Columbus Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven.
The Red, White and Blue will face Honduras in the regional championship game on Sunday afternoon in Nashville.
The Central American nation also qualified for the Olympics on Thursday night, winning the opening game of the double-header in a penalty kick showdown with Guatemala.