Throughout the build-up to Friday’s match, the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team stated its desire to win the opening leg of its Olympic qualifying playoff in Colombia. The Americans failed to do so, but Friday’s result kept them in a good position to clinch a berth in this summer’s tournament.
An early finish from Luis Gil was canceled out by a Colombia penalty kick in the second half, as the U.S. escaped Barranquilla with a 1-1 draw on Friday. In securing the draw, the U.S. netted a vital away goal, which could serve as a tiebreaker in the case of a tie on aggregate.
Gil’s breakthrough goal came just five minutes into the game, as the Queretaro midfielder combined with Mario Rodriguez to create the crucial away goal. After being dominated during the opening minutes, the U.S. broke out as Rodriguez darted down the right wing. The forward cut a ball back towards the penalty spot, where Gil sat waiting for a wide-open look that gave the U.S. the early lead.
From there, the U.S. was on the their back foot, as Colombia piled on pressure in front of its home crowd. Adding to the U.S. struggles was an injury to goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, who was forced out of the game shortly before halftime due to a collision just outside of the box.
Facing wave after wave of pressure, the U.S. finally broke in the 68th minute. After a mishit clearance by Matt Miazga, Kellyn Acosta was called for a penalty just inside the right side of the box. Colombia playmaker Juan Fernando Quintero stepped up and buried the ensuing spot kick, sealing a 1-1 draw.
The Americans’ best opportunity of the second half came just moments before Quintero’s leveler, as Jordan Morris rattled the crossbar from distance. The Seattle Sounders forward also had another run at goal shortly after Quintero’s finish, but was bodied off the ball by Colombia’s last defender.
Colombia proved dominant on the ball for a majority of the game, but were repeatedly undone by the duo of Miazga and Tim Parker. The two U.S. centerbacks made numerous clearances and interceptions inside their own box, limiting Colombia to very few open looks.
Quintero’s tally proved to be Colombia’s lone finish of the game, as the hosts settled for a draw ahead of the second leg.
The two teams will face off once again on Tuesday at FC Dallas’ Toyota Stadium.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
The U.S. knew they would be facing a major battle with a visit to Colombia, and Luis Gil’s early goal gave the team something to hold onto almost immediately. The midfielder’s finish ensures that all was not lost with the draw, as the U.S. have an away goal in their back pocket heading into the second leg.
MATCH TO FORGET
Even prior to the penalty kick call, Kellyn Acosta wasn’t having his best game at the right back position. Colombia picked on Acosta throughout the 90 minutes, and the FC Dallas product was caught ball-watching several times. The penalty may have been a bit harsh, but it was a deserved breakthrough for a Colombia team that made the most of the matchup all night.