Beijing Olympics: The US is elbowed out of contention

Michael Orozco’s elbow to Solomon Okoronkwo’s chest as the two grappled was picked up by the German referee who gave Orozco marching orders. The US were reduced to ten men in the 4th minute.
It was an ill advised foul which happened right in front of the referee and he was forced into taking the more harsh option. The Olympic soccer tournament is after all a more genteel subset of the World Cup.
Orozco’s departure left the left flank open leaving the Nigerian attack free to roam. Robbie Rogers rejiggered role saw him doing defensive duty with little success.
“The whole lineup changes, the whole mentality just goes in the trash,” United States Coach Peter Nowak said after the game. “I think maybe the referee rushed the decision to show Michael the red card.”
The pacy Super Eagles penetrated with ease through the defensive gaps with Victor Obinna and Solomon Okoronkwo letting loose a couple of times. The US played reactive defense but Guzan held firm. In the 39th minute, it changed as Ogbuke Obasi, in the move of the match slalomed past Michael Parkhurst and Marvel Wynne towards the endline, dragged the ball back and neatly centered the ball for Promise Isaac to tap the ball in for an easy goal. Another chance just before halftime saw Danny Szetela clearing goal line.
The second half saw the Nigerians getting a bit careless with the ball and giving it up cheaply on occasion leading Marcelo Balboa to exhort repeatedly that the Nigerians would implode. It did not happen but that did not stop Balboa till the Nigerians scored again later in the period.
In fact, they kept passing back and forth in a studied attempt to draw out the US who probably had a half ear glued to the Netherlands vs Japan game. Benny Feilhaber came in for Jozy Altidore who was ineffective and almost gave Nigerian an own goal when Victor Obinna’s shot carromed off his leg with Guzan making an incredible save, reaching back to stop the ball. In between Feilhaber and the Brian McBride had a couple of headers that Ambruse Vanzekin managed to save. The Nigerians did look a bit disorganized when it came to dealing with set pieces.
However it was the Nigerians who went ahead as Victor Obinna latched onto another Obasi pass into the box, created some space as Michael Parkhurst lost his footing, turned and shot the ball past Guzan in the 79th minute. More bad news came as Netherlands had gone one up against Japan through a Gerald Sibon penalty kick. So the slim chance that they could advance even with a loss against the Nigerians had evaporated.
The introduction of Dax McCarthy and Charlie Davies made the US more multi-dimensional. In the 87th minute, Maurice Edu was tripped up by Vanzekin in the box and the referee had no hesitation awarding a penalty kick and yellow carding the Nigerian goalkeeper. Sacha Kjlestan converted it coolly. In the last five minutes, Benny Feilhaber’s header clanged off the cross bar as everyone held their collective breath and Charlie Davies swerving shot was stopped by a diving Vanzekin. At the other end, Robbie Rogers came close to scoring an own goal under pressure but it too struck the crossbar.
Unfortunately, the US did not have a Gerald Sibon moment of its own that would have sent it to the quarterfinals.

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