photo by John Dorton/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Under-23 men's national team's hopes of reaching the 2012 Olympics have been dealt a serious blow.
Two days after routing Cuba, the Americans suffered a shocking 2-0 defeat to Canada at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. on Saturday night in their second Group A match. Both goals came in the second half off of corner kicks, with Doneil Henry and Lucas Cavallini scoring after defensive mistakes from the United States.
The result was just the latest bit of bad news for U.S. head coach Caleb Porter, who earlier in the day found out that forward Juan Agudelo would miss the rest of the qualifying tournament with a meniscus tear in his left knee.
The United States' loss to the Canucks, combined with El Salvador's 4-0 win in the first match of the doubleheader at LP Field on Saturday, essentially leaves the United States in must-win territory in its final match of group play. Assuming Canada defeats already-eliminated Cuba on Monday, the U.S. team will need a win versus El Salvador in order to advance to the must-win semifinals game.
Canada earned the three points with a defensively-disciplined performance. The Canadians' midfield made things tough for the United States, who seemed to be out of sync offensively despite winning the possession battle.
Even so, the United States nearly opened the scoring when Ike Opara finished off a Freddy Adu free kick in the 48th minute. The headed strike was negated, however, as Opara was whistled for offsides.
That allowed for Canada to capitalize off a corner kick ten minutes later. U.S. goalkeeper Bill Hamid failed to punch the ball clear after the service was sent in from the right, and Henry jumped in front of him to head the ball home.
The stagnant United States offense, which started an ineffective Teal Bunbury in Agudelo's place, tried to respond, but the final ball was always lacking.
Adu was invisible for large stretches, Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud struggled to impose their will on the game, and Brek Shea repeatedly failed to find his teammates with crosses sent in from the flanks.
The faulty execution on offense cost the United States once again, as in the 83rd minute Cavallin scored off a diving header after breaking free from Opara.
The United States then picked things up on offense as the visitors sat back on their 2-0 lead. With substitute Joe Gyau providing a spark off the bench after initially failing to find the ball, the Americans created good looks on goal.
Unfortunately for the Americans, Canada goalkeeper Michal Misiewicz was up to the task on every shot, making a handful of fine saves in the waning moments of the match.
The win gave Canada four points and second place in Group A, while the United States dropped to third with three points. El Salvador is in first with four points and a better goal differential than Canada. Cuba is last in the group with zero points and is unable to advance to the next round.
The Americans will take on El Salvador in the final group game on Monday night at LP Field.
What do you think of the Americans' 2-0 loss to Canada? What needs to change versus El Salvador? Think this U.S. team is capable of winning back-to-back games to advance to the Olympics?
Share your thoughts below.