U.S. - Japan: By The Dawn's Early Light

Nobody said being an American soccer fan was easy.

Getting up at 5 AM to watch a prelim match against Japan takes not just stamina and resolve but lots of coffee and a significant other who long ago gave you up for hopeless.

The US entered this game having not scored "from the run of play" as they say (and as J.P. Dellacamera says incessantly) since the 3-0 win over Canada in the CONCACAF semis, a span of three games and a whole bunch of blown chances.

Not scoring against Honduras is at least understandable. Not finding the net against either Cameroon or the Ivory coast is a little more worrisome.

The good news is that they finally did score, via a Stuart Holden whack in the 46th minute off of a deflected cross from Marvel Wynne who simply blew away his mark. Japan GK Shusaku Nishikawa got both hands on the shot but only managed to slow it down on it's way across the end line.

As a result the U.S. Men gained the three points they absolutely, positively had to have to keep their somewhat shaky hopes of advancement out of a very tough group on track by beating a feisty Japanese side 1-0.

This is a Japanese side with no "overage" players and made up entirely of J-League regulars, a team which the U.S. should have easily handled.

Yet despite our glittering array of foreign based young talent, and despite a clear advantage in terms of possession and midfield buildup it was Japan who had by far the more dangerous looking chances.

The middle of the U.S. defense was rock solid with Maurice Edu and Michael Parkhurst holding their ground and Japan able to make precious little headway in the center of the pitch.

But time after time counterattacking Japanese wingers beat the U.S.A.'s outside backs into the corners and got off a frightening array of very solid crosses which a better team would have buried.

For the U.S., Freddy Adu displayed an astonishing array of gestures, glaring looks and rolled eyes aimed at the referee, but otherwise his game seems much the same as it was the last time we saw him.

Robbie Rogers looked far more dangerous going one-on-one on the left side and Brian McBride took a serious beating in the middle but found himself repeatedly searching for the ball way too high to have any effect on the score.

If the U.S. is going to go beyond the first round they're going to have to find a way to get more dangerous in the final third. If Nowak can't find a combination able to put the ball into the net MLS will get their guys back a lot sooner than they figured.