Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Oh, Did We Get Lucky!

August 7, 2008

If you are surfing to this blog, you probably saw the USA squeak by Japan 1-0 to open up the Olympic tournament for the Stars and Stripes. A fair result could have been 2-1 for Japan, which created more dangerous chances than our boys and demonstrated more fluid passing and coherent defense.

A few quick bits:

Brian McBride – Battled hard as always but there was seldom anyone available for the second ball.

Freddy Adu – Held the ball way too long and was too easily muscled off the ball. Always seems not to notice the drop man when receiving a pass and surrounded by 2-3 defenders. Gave up possession too easily.

Michael Bradley – A virtual ghost for most of the match offensively but held his own defensively. The offensive terror of the Eredivisie seemed to be MIA today. Try him at playmaker vice young Freddy.

Maurice Edu – Earned his spurs today in a position he is not accustomed to playing. The near -penalty at the end can be attributed to defending like a midfielder in the open field (his natural habitat), not a defender in the penalty area.

Marvell Wynne – Stout performance, defended his turf like it belonged to his family. Phenomenal run to set up the US goal.

Stuart Holden – Solid match, well taken shot on goal but often left Orozco stranded.

Heath Pearce – Why could you not be on this team? Instead, the left back position became an open gate on the Honda highway.

Michael Orozco – Had a few bright spots early but the rest of the match seemed to zig when the Japanese zagged (see entry for Pearce, Heath). Needs to stay on his feet more.

Robbie Rogers – Reminded me of the old never-say-die Bennie Olsen on the wing. One of the few American players to show any imagination.

While a win is a win, I’m not very optimistic on the USA’s chances against the Netherlands. They looked like 11 individuals and urgently need to get into a team rhythm if they want to have any chance of advancing. Michael Bradley should be used like the playmaker he is but he also needs to step up his game. He could blow his chance at that fat contract in England if he doesn’t.

USA And Japan Set To Face Off

August 7, 2008

Today the USA and Japan men’s soccer teams will open up their Olympic campaign in a tough group which includes Nigeria and the Netherlands. In contrast to the USA which features three top over-23 players led by striker Brian McBride, Japan is essentially bringing its U-23 team with no overage players.

While the USA has looked solid defensively in friendly matches, it still has yet to find its shooting boots and coach Piotr Novak hopes they find them today. Novak opined that “As a coach you’re always concerned about the team not creating chances, but during the qualifiers they did create a lot of chances. We had the opportunities to score goals, and we did that in the game that mattered the most. Against Canada in the semifinal we scored three goals and as far as I know it doesn’t really matter how many goals you score if you win. In today’s football it’s not possible to run up a score because the games are so tight.”

Their Japanese opponents have not fared much better of late and are now under pressure from their new federation president, Motoaki Inukai, who has criticized the team for its attitude as a cause of its poor form. Novak seems to have a different take: “I think the strength of the Japanese team is their whole team, the way they work together and understand each other very well. We watched them in the Toulon Tournament that we played in and their ‘team’ is their biggest strength. They collectively are very strong and never give up. They know the game and the discipline it takes and at any given time they can hurt you.”

The Japanese player to watch out for is Hiroki Mizumoto, a pesky 6-foot defender who is strong in the air and never seems to tire. In the penalty area, expect him to stick to McBride like glue.

Given the strength of group B, both Japan and the USA need to collect all three points to have any hope of advancing in the tournament for a shot at a medal. Despite the heat (expected to be in the 80s) expect a full-tilt contest with a frenetic start.

My prediction: USA 2 : Japan 1.

Not near a TV? Catch the game live here.