Dejected US men fall short
They're disappointed but looking ahead
BEIJING - Eliminated again just short of the knockout rounds, the American men's soccer team headed home from the Olympics today bemoaning its bad luck.
Whether it was failing to prevent a last-minute free kick from going under the wall for a goal against the Netherlands, or Charlie Davies's header that banged off the crossbar instead of hitting the back of the net in injury time against Nigeria - either one of which would been enough for a quarterfinal berth - the United States retreated from China decrying what should have been.
"These tournaments are such a fine line between in and out," Heerenveen midfielder Michael Bradley said after the US team's 2-1 loss to Nigeria last night.
"You walk that line and it goes one way or the other, and sometimes you just need a call here, or a call there to sort of push you in the right direction."
The Americans chose to see what went right, rather than dwell on what went awry.
"I want people to know we're not far away from doing well in tournaments like this," Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Klejstan said. "We're getting close, and I think with a few fortunate bounces in this tournament, we would have been through to the quarterfinals sitting pretty.
"I'm very disappointed with the way things ended, but I want people to know we're getting close and when the World Cup comes around, I hope we do great."
Even coaches of the Netherlands and Nigeria called their teams "lucky" in reference to the results against the United States.
But if good teams can make their own luck, the Americans seemed to tease fate.
Whether it was the yellow cards earned in the first two games by Freddy Adu and Bradley that caused them to miss the Nigeria match; or Stuart Holden's foul that set up Gerald Sobon's last-minute free kick against the Dutch; or Michael Orozco's third-minute elbow against Nigeria that drew him a red card and forced his team to play the rest of the game with 10 men in a match in which they needed at least a draw, the Americans didn't help their own cause.
"Playing the way [we] did does help, but in the end it is the results that matter in these tournaments, and there are times I think I wouldn't have minded if we played terrible and got three wins," Holden said.
"There are a lot of things we can improve at the international level, but we're going in the right direction," said US coach Peter Nowak.