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Running Diary: USA vs. Japan

by Jeff Briggs

I’m doing a running diary of the US Men’s opening soccer game at the 2008 Olympics (at first, this was going to be a live blog, but then I thought there was a 50% chance I'd fall asleep during the game). If you are reading this, I’ve at least made it through part of the match:

4:54am – I walk upstairs to find my roommate is still awake, playing poker. He is deep in a big tournament that he started last night. Having someone still up is a welcome surprise.

4:58 – This is the stupidest idea I’ve had in a while. It’s early and I don’t drink coffee.

5:01 – And we’re off. The game is on MSNBC, and Universal HD. Universal HD will be interrupting its service of movies like Naked Gun 2 ½ and Virtuosity to play almost exclusively Olympics for the next two weeks. As much as I like BeetleJuice, I think the change will be good.

5:03 – USA is wearing their whites and Japan is in blue. I know half of these US players, at best. That’s what happens when you are only allowed three players over 23 on each team.

5:06 – With Netherlands and Nigeria in our pool as well as Japan, the announcers have called this game a “must-win” for the US. It’s good to know that there is a must win game before the opening ceremonies have even occurred.

5:07 – Brian McBride has only been on the team for three weeks and he is the captain (he is also 36, as opposed to most of his teammates, who are under 23).

5:16 – US has been on attack for most of the game, but no real strong shots to this point.

5:18 – I don’t know who the announcers are (JP Dellacamera and Marcelo Balboa), but I know who they are not, and that’s Andy Gray. NBC should have figured out a way to hire him. Listening to Americans announce soccer is never as exciting as a strong accent.

5:20 – My roommate just got knocked out of his poker tournament that started at 9pm last night. He won $8000, and now I’m by myself in front of the TV.

5:21 – Wow. Japan just had a great opportunity to score off a corner with an open net in front of one of the Japanese players, but no goal. USA dodged a bullet.

5:28 – USA and Japan just exchanged scoring chances: both teams had a decent shot, but no results to show.

5:33 – Freddy Adu with a rip from right outside of the box. A little high, but if that was a goal it would have been an amazing shot.

5:40 – Japan just has another great chance, with a sliding player inches away from knocking the cross right into the goal. Corner kick coming. Oh, and Balboa just called Japan “China” for at least the second time.

5:41 – JAPAN AGAIN! A cross and a diving header by Japan, he connects, but the ball goes about a foot wide.

5:42 – I was just told to check my local listings to see if I get the NBC Olympic Soccer channel, so hold on.

5:43 – Nope.

5:45 – USA will get a corner in the last minute of the first half. They manage to get a head on it, but it’s not on target. Shouldn’t the US win most of the balls in the air? You gotta imagine we are taller than Japan on average.

5:46 – Ref blows the whistle as Japan is setting up a corner. I’d be angry if I was Japan, that doesn’t seem fair. Oh well, halftime, score tied at zeros.

5:47 – Well, I made it through a half of play without falling asleep, which is an accomplishment in my mind. Japan had the best chances of the half, but I’d say the play was pretty even overall.

5:55 – Italy is the only team that has managed to score between the four early games, as they are up 2-0 at halftime against Honduras.

6:03 – GOAL USA!!!! Stuart Holden. Cross by Marvell Wynne deflects of a defender and Holden knocks it in. The goalie got a hand on it, but it wasn’t enough.

6:08 – Freddy Adu gets a yellow card. Upset about not drawing any penalty, Adu trips up a Japanese player and gets himself a card. Not a player we need out of the game.

6:16 – Yep, still awake. Just not a lot has happened lately. I will say this game is being played in Tianjin, and the air appears clear enough that I can see the players and the field. Don’t know how much worse it is 70 miles away, though, in Beijing.

6:20 – Another card for the US, this time Michael Bradley. Bad call. He really didn’t do anything and the announcing team agrees with me. Japan makes a change, Kajiyama off, Lee on.

6:21 – Japan gets another good shot, but Edu (not Adu) is there to keep it off goal.

6:23 – Freddy Adu just gets pushed over in the box. No foul called, Adu is visibly frustrated. I’m fine with the no call, but if you are gonna card Bradley for what he did, this should get some sort of call.

6:29 – Robbie Rogers is down. Japan puts Toyoda in for Morimoto.

6:30 – Japan’s K. Honda gets a yellow card for his takedown of Rogers now, more than a minute after the fact. Brian McBride is out and Jozy Altidore comes in for the USA.

6:33 – Altidore and T. Honda are grabbing at each other as they run down the field. Honda ends up with a yellow card.

6:35 – Adu is on the wrong end of another close call. He needs to make sure he doesn’t lose his composure and pick up a second card.

6:36 – Japan got yet another good chance. A lot of commotion in the box, but eventually the ball is cleared.

6:37 – US on the attack now and Altidore is almost able to make some magic happen, and earns the US a corner.

6:38 – US makes a sub. Stuart Holden off for Benny Feilhaber.

6:40 – Japan again gets a good shot, this time an open header, but no goal. Okazaki in for Kagawa and Japan is out of subs.

6:43 – Robbie Rogers is out and Danny Szetela comes in. Four minutes and stoppage time for the US to hold off Japan.

6:44 – Japan could have been awarded a penalty there with Edu grabbing inside the box, but no call is made.

6:45 - Japan is in the box again, still no goal.

6:46 – US goalie Guzan gets a yellow for wasting time as stoppage approaches.

6:47 – Four minutes have been added on, and the way Japan is outplaying the US right now, that could be a scary four minutes.

6:50 – Last minute for the US to hold on.

6:51 – A Japan header goes over the goal. That was the last opportunity, game over; USA picks up three points and I’ve just watched my first Olympic event of 2008. The next two weeks are going to be awesome.