Holden hits US past Japan
© AFP

Despite the presence of three headline-grabbing strikers in Freddy Adu, Brian McBride and Jozy Altidore, it was hard-working midfielder Stuart Holden who scored the only goal as the USA won their first Men's Olympic Football Tournament Group B match against Japan on Thursday in Tianjin.

After some cagey early exchanges, the game settled into a cautious rhythm around the ten-minute mark. After 14 minutes the contest saw its first real chance as Brian McBride, doing the dirty work with his back to goal, laid the ball off for Michael Bradley at the top of the box. Despite getting some power behind it, the Heerenveen man's shot flew right in to the waiting arms of Shusaku Nishikawa.

Next it was Japan's turn to look dangerous. Mid-way through the half, a brilliantly conceived corner kick caught the American defence asleep. After receiving a return-ball after an intricate exchange, Atsuto Uchida cut inside and laid on a low cross for Masato Morishige. But with the goal at his mercy the defender could only push wide of Brad Guzan's post.

Both sides had good chances as the half ground to a scoreless close, with Freddy Adu -17 years the junior of strike partner McBride - firing a wicked volley inches over Nishikawa's bar and a cross from Uchida nearly forced USA defender Marvell Wynne to put through his own net.

It took the Americans only two minutes of the second half to find the go-ahead goal. Speedy fullback Wynne roared up the right side and slammed in a cross that the Japanese defence failed to deal with. Stuart Holden of Houston Dynamo roared through and took advantage of the poor clearance, knocking home past Nishikawa who was able to get a hand to it.

Jozy Altidore came on as a late second-half sub for the tiring McBride and nearly put the US two in front with ten minutes to go, but the Japanese goalkeeper did well to come off his line and deny the new Villarreal signing close range.

Up next for the US is a date with the Dutch on 10 August, while the Japanese will take on Nigeria earlier that day.