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U.S. men's soccer team has issues

August 2, 2008 |  4:43 pm

Freddy Adu dribbles past Cameroon defenders.

Just a few days away from its opening game at the Beijing Olympics, the U.S. men’s soccer team heard some unsettling words it didn’t want to hear on Saturday.

“Maybe we’re still a little naïve about international football,” Coach Peter Nowak said after the U.S. had been beaten, 1-0, by Cameroon in Hong Kong in its final warm-up match before the Games.

The loss was the second shutout in a row for the Americans, who were held to a 0-0 tie by the Ivory Coast in another warmup game last Wednesday.

Nowak, a former World Cup midfielder for Poland with extensive international experience as a player, said his team appeared hesitant.

“Going into games like this we have to expect that they’ll be physical, with a lot of contact,” he said, “so we have to prevail.”

After being shoved around in the first 45 minutes, during which Cameroon, the 2000 Olympic gold-medal winner, scored on a 24th-minute penalty kick by Aurelian Chedjou Fongang after a foul by Michael Bradley, the U.S. did better in the second half.

But whereas Cameroon also hit the post and had a shot cleared off the line in the first half, the U.S. again failed to score, stretching its streak without a goal in competitive play to 312 minutes, including a 1-0 overtime loss to Honduras in its final Olympic qualifying game in March.

Cameroon outshot the Americans, 8-7, including 5-1 in shots on target. The U.S. squad will travel to Tianjin on Sunday for games against Japan on Thursday (4:30 a.m., MSNBC) and against the Netherlands on Aug. 10. It then goes to Beijing for its final first-round game, against Nigeria on Aug. 13.

-- Grahame L. Jones

Photo: Freddy Adu, center, of the U.S. dribbles past Cameroon's Stephane Bikey Amougou (4), Stephane Mbia Etoundi (6), and Albert Legrand Baning in a warmup match Saturday in Hong Kong ahead of the Olympics. Credit: Jerome Favre/Associated Press