HONG KONG, CHINA (July 30, 2008) – The U.S. Men’s Olympic Team earned a scoreless draw with Ivory Coast in the opening match of the ING Cup in Hong Kong on Wednesday. The United States will face Cameroon in their second match of the tournament and their final Olympic tune-up on Aug. 2 at 5 p.m. local / 5 a.m. ET at Hong Kong Stadium. Fans can follow the action against Cameroon live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.
Head coach Peter Nowak used all 16 field players during the game, including a complete switch of his midfielders and forwards at halftime, getting a good look at nearly his entire Olympic roster. The two groups of attackers each created dangerous chances throughout the game, despite getting only one shot on goal.
“These matches are tune-ups for the Olympics so we want to make sure the stuff we've been working on will translate into the games,” Nowak said. “We wanted to give time to the whole group to make sure that they're ready for the game on Saturday, and more importantly learn from today's mistakes before our game against Japan. Our preparations, mentally and physically, will show through these two games both offensively and defensively. We want to make sure to get the full package together by next week.”
Ivory Coast used their speed and athleticism to create counterattack opportunities throughout the game, but the U.S. defense was up to the task. Brad Guzan, who earned Man of the Match honors, made four saves throughout the night, including a kick save from point-blank range late in the second half.
Mamadou Bagayoko took the game’s first shot in just the second minute, pouncing on an errant pass and moving upfield before quickly taking a shot that went wide of Guzan’s goal. The Americans, defending in numbers when necessary, escaped two corner kicks in the first seven minutes before settling into their game.
In the 10th minute, midfielder Michael Bradley took the first shot of the game for the U.S. after an impressive buildup out of the back. Sacha Kljestan and Freddy Adu combined in the midfield to get the ball out wide to Jozy Altidore, who knocked it over to Bradley. His one-time shot with the outside of his right foot went wide.
Adu looked to have gotten in behind the Ivory Coast defense in the 29th minute, running onto an Altidore pass in the box. He was taken down, but the referee let play continue. Minutes later, defender Marvell Wynne won a tackle and played the ball forward quickly for Altidore. He and striking partner Brian McBride combined at the top of the box, and McBride touched it ahead for a streaking Kljestan. He took a touch into the box, but defender Ousmane Viera Diarrassouba did well to recover and was able to cleanly tackle the ball away from Kljestan.
The final two chances of the first half belonged to the U.S. as the ball got out wide to midfielder Stuart Holden, who made a cheeky move around his defender and whipped a ball into the box looking for a pair of targets in McBride and Altidore, but neither could get to it. Seconds later, after Adu took a hard foul, Holden chipped in the ensuing free kick, again looking for his strikers at the far post. Altidore got tangled up with his defender, and got his head to it, but only enough to make the ball bounce up and into the hands of Ivory Coast ‘keeper Vincent de Paul Angban.
With Nowak changing his entire attack with five halftime substitutions, the U.S. moved into a 4-5-1 with Charlie Davies as the lone striker. But it was Ivory Coast who came out firing, earning the first truly dangerous chance of the game for either side in the 52nd minute. Kouamatien Kone flew down his right wing and got by defender Michael Orozco before sending a cross to the far post. Teammate Sekou Cisse was at the far post, and snapped his header down and on frame, but Guzan was there to make the diving save.
Guzan’s best save of the night came in the 71st minute, after a quick counter attack from the Ivory Coast. Serge Pascal Wawa, who was one of the best players for the Ivory Coast on the night, broke up a U.S. attack and got the ball forward with speed. Cisse received the ball and powered through Maurice Edu to get into the box alone and hit a low shot to the near post. Guzan was up to the task though, making a kick save to keep the game scoreless.
The U.S. heads into the 2008 Olympic Games having been drawn into a difficult Group B and will open against Japan on August 7 before facing the Netherlands on August 10, with both games taking place at the Olympic Sports Center Stadium in Tianjin. The team will then travel to Workers’ Stadium in Beijing to conclude group play against 1996 gold medalist and 2005 Under-20 World Cup champion Nigeria on August 13.