GEORGE MURPHY - Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Peter Nowak and the United States Men's Olympic team went into Wednesday morning's final matchup against Nigeria knowing that a tie or win would see them advance to the next stages of the tournament, but failed to earn a result as they fell to Nigeria 2-1.
The yanks were dealt an early blow after Michael Orozco was sent off for elbowing Nigeria's Solomon Okoronkwo in just the fourth minute. This forced Nowak to immediately adjust, sending Robbie Rogers to left back to fill the gaping hole by the ejection. The Columbus Crew midfielder struggled with the adjustment throughout the first half.
Nigeria tried a number of long shots, all of which US goalkeeper Brad Guzan was prepared for, but not even the new Aston Villa signing was able to stop the Nigerian goal in the 41st minute. Nigeria's Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi was able to beat Michael Parkhurst close to the goal line and center the ball to Promise Isaac who easily tapped the ball in to the wide open net.
Nowak made one change at half, bringing on Benny Feilhaber for Jozy Altidore who seemed to struggle to find his way in the first half. The Nigerian team seemed to fall apart in the 60th minute, committing more players forward and breaking down defensively when they were up a man.
The United States however were unable to find an equalizer, and Nigeria seemingly put the game away when Victor Nsofor Obinna was able to put a curving ball past Guzan after a slip in the penalty area from Parkhurst in the 79th minute.
Charlie Davies, who was brought on right before the second Nigeria goal in the 77th minute for Stuart Holden, did all that he could to inject life into a tired United States squad. The Hammarby IF striker showed his blazing speed, constantly working his way behind the Nigerian defense.
Some hope came for the yanks when they were awarded a penalty kick in the 88th minute. Nigerian goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin took out American defender Maurice Edu in the penalty area; Sacha Kljestan stepped to the spot and was able to capitalize with a fine finish and half the lead.
Charlie Davies almost found the equalizer for the United States a mere minute later after hitting the crossbar from a pinpoint Dax McCarty free kick. The Swedish based player made space for himself a minute late, but his low screamer was easily smothered by Vankezi.
The United States seemed to be running on empty after their final two chances and chased Nigeria back down the field for the remainder of stoppage time. Guzan and his defense were lucky not to concede a third after all eleven players pushed forward for a late corner kick, but Nigeria chance on an open net went wide.
With the loss, and the Netherlands victory over Japan, the Americans failed to qualify for the elimination round of the tournament. Nigeria finished first and the Netherlands, with give points, finished a single point ahead of Nowak's squad for the final slot.