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USA U-23s suffer shock defeat to Canada in Olympic qualifying


photo by John Dorton/


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.


  1. A major tournament that only plays once every four years, is not a youth tryout. Bunbury has not suddenly dropped in stature. He has fallen below 3 to 4 of his peers at the U23’s based on months of play. He has also fallen behind his young teammate CJ at SKC. It is not the responsibility of the Olympic coach to nurture him.

  2. The olympic team needs to play more matches and be a full four year program.I am tired of the same or similar format that CONCACAF has used for this level since 2000. The current format has seen many upsets and never seen the two best teams emerge. (Thus, the overall Olympic performances for CONCACAF have suffered.)Honduras beat Mexico in 2000; then Mexico underperforms in the group stage and beats 2004 group winner U.S. In 2008, Guatemala dives in the last group game, thus Mexico misses the semifinals and now the U.S. loses to Canada.
    The one time the U.S. won at Mexico was in 1992 qualifiers when they actually played more games a home and away group schedule for example. People should get the email for Chuck Blazer at and ask for a much longer process with home and away group games for Brazil 2016 on FIFA international dates starting soon after the 2013 u-20 World Cup.
    Hiring a college coach with no pro coaching experience is coaching to fail. Yet, we can’t blame Porter for a second goal that should not have counted and the handball situation I read. Unfortunately, it looks like Panama referee standards have not improved as much as their team in recent years. Funny how the next day Panama was denied a legit second goal with a referee who probably got a talking point from CONCACAF.

  3. “I was a tsd befuddled by pulling Corona, by resisting putting Gyau and Shea on field together. By insisting on the 433. Okugo late. Coaching decisions.”

    Absolutely. Great points here.

  4. Sorry about that – I was pretty sure it was Boyd, not Body, but I drank the Koolaid listening to that self righteous British ponce call the game on the CONCACAF web stream.

  5. @ Pepe. ha ha

    yet off…more like do both, aim for both.

    Germany does. Physical technicians.. Mueller is awesome at the counter, Ozil orchestrates in his ways too, and they crunch and run hard all day.

    crude example, but German 🙂

  6. Agreed. For all the hype surrounding Boyd on SBI (some said we might lose him to Germany’s NT!) from people who can’t have seen him play all that much, he has justified very little of it on the field.

    Not saying dude won’t eventually be good or anything, but from the admittedly little I’ve seen he appears nothing special.

  7. Thank you too man.

    let’s see what Porter does. Gyau could be a player, in the 3rd game in 5 days for all, who is rested and equipped to do damage; where does Porter deploy him? Maybe Corona is helped by not going 90, too. And who starts as the target man? If Bunbury, do we incorpoarate some tactics that better suit his abilities?

    I expect Porter to get it right. I do believe he’s an excellent coach. And I expect the team, down to the last man, to come up with the best efforts of their collective lives to keep their Olympic Dreams alive.

    El Salvador will come with that too. Game can’t start soon enough baby!

  8. Thanks for the response!

    It was admittedly hard for me to watch the game and see clearly where the problems lay for us. I think,as you suggested, it is probably the case that our boys had tired legs from the Cuba game. Kudos to the Canadian coach for managing the short turnaround better than Porter. Were it not for the tired leg problem, I think the key would’ve been sharp passing through that midfield triangle – Canada’s high pressure not withstanding. They are big and physical and we didn’t have the personnel to match up to them in the box as far as I could tell: no experienced target man.

    That said, the tiredness complication does suggest that fresh (and fast) legs on the flanks could be the only productive way to unlock the defense. However, if that is what we were going for, Gyau failed to implement the strategy by cutting inside to his preferred foot and being stymied every time. I found it painful to watch and, frankly, I can’t see him being especially productive at a high level unless he learns to use his other boot.

    I like your last point and I’d be very interested to see what Gyau could do as a right sided attacker or as a second forward where he could run at the hearts of the defense. Both of those roles seem better suited to the way he has been approaching the past two games.

  9. DC’s goalkeeping coach is Pat Onstad… a CANADIAN!!! I sense a conspiracy! Onstad must be intentionally teaching Hamid bad habits.

  10. Oh yeah, definitely something to take notice of! I’m not trying to minimize the loss because it was definitely bad, but I don’t want it to get overdone, which seems to happen a ton in the US soccer community.

  11. I agree with the poster who mentioned the number of repeat players, I thought a key difference was they looked fresher. Coaching decision.

    I was a tsd befuddled by pulling Corona, by resisting putting Gyau and Shea on field together. By insisting on the 433. Okugo late. Coaching decisions.

    Agudelo is going to cramp our style unless we move someone like Shea or Corona forward. Need more skill up top.

    Hamid was responsible on the first goal but I’m more worried in the bigger picture about the defense. Even though Canada was finishing the dead balls they were getting free looks at the 18.

    We’re going to earn this one game at a time. ES tied Canada and had a healthy Cuba win, 4-0. Then it will be a toughie versus Mexico or Honduras for the London spot. Tad worried Porter doesn’t have a good rotation or tactical flexibility going for us to be fresh for the semi.

  12. I would love to find these comments where people are comparing the USA U-23s to Barcelona. That comment invalidates the rest of what you said.

  13. exactly @ beachbum.
    I thought americans prided themselves on out hustling, working & being more physical that the opposition.

    the USA has some of the biggest, strongest & fastest futbol players…..start using their talents correctly & quit trying to play like the spanish.


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