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U-23 USMNT left devastated after “tragic” failure to qualify for Olympics

For the third straight cycle, the Under-23 U.S. Men’s National Team has wasted a good opportunity. For the third straight cycle, a deeper dive will likely be needed to find out exactly what went wrong. For the third straight cycle, failure is how Olympic qualifying will be remembered.

The U-23 USMNT saw a golden chance to return to the Summer Games slip through its fingers, as a 2-1 semifinal loss to Honduras in Concacaf Olympic Qualifying eliminated the Americans on Sunday. Jason Kreis’ side fell behind by a 2-0 mark before trying to mount a comeback, but ultimately never found an equalizer en route to seeing its 13-year Olympic absence extend further.

“Obviously we are devastated, absolutely devastated in the locker room” said U-23 USMNT head coach Jason Kreis. “It is like a tragedy, a tragedy. I think we all wanted this so badly for so many different reasons and it could be that sometimes when you want it too bad you put yourself in a position where you cannot perform to the level needed.

“At the end of the day, I just do not think we had enough.”

As had been the cases throughout much of the tournament in Mexico, the Americans left a lot to be desired in the decisive fixture. They were not able to generate much in the final third until they fell into that 2-0 hole, and even then the only goal they scored against los catrachos was a sensational strike from distance from midfielder Jackson Yueill.

The end product was not good enough and neither was the overall performance.

“I think it just comes down to general sharpness of players,” said Kreis. “I do not know that I have ever seen a game where we have had players mis-control the ball so much, balls rolling under people’s feet, passing out of bounds. These are things that really you just kind of scratch your head and you are thinking, ‘What is going on here?’

“But I also have been around the game enough in our country at a pro level to tell you this is what you see at preseasons and at the beginning of MLS seasons. It is typical.”

Whether Sunday’s disastrous result at Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico, was simply down to players having rust or a combination of that and the pressure getting to the players is not entirely clear. Kreis stated, however, that he thought the weight of the moment may have affected his side.

“We have players that are not moving, we have people on the ball that are not committing defenders to make decisions to open up spaces, we have guys that look like they just do not really want the ball,” said Kreis. “It kind of just goes back to mostly mentality for me. That is my opinion right now and I could have it wrong but at the end of the day it just was not quite there from a confidence point of view.”

Exhibit A of that may just have been the winning goal, which came in the 47th minute off a gaffe from goalkeeper David Ochoa. Under duress inside his penalty area, Ochoa tried playing a short pass forward that was cut off by Honduras attacker Luis Palma and knocked into the back of the net.

While the finger can be pointed at Ochoa for that costly gaffe, the Americans as a whole did not perform up to expectations from the run of play over the course of their four qualifiers. Questions will be asked as to whether having the team adopt a near-identical style of play as the full USMNT was a good choice all things considered.

Nonetheless, Kreis took his share of the blame for the disappointment that will extend the Americans’ Olympic absence to at least 16 years.

“I will look first and foremost at myself and think back about the decisions that were made about the roster, about the form of the players that were coming in, the players that were not here,” said Kreis.”Anybody that knows anything about me knows that I point the finger at myself absolutely first.

“Having said that, it is a collective effort. It was not just me making those decisions, but I am more than willing and able to take the brunt of the blame.”

Comments

  1. I’m heart broken. This U-23 team was disappointing, soft and gutless. Most of all, the manager who our together the team roster should be fired and should never be hired again. Jason Kries sucks. Kries can kiss my ass.

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  2. Feel bad for the players, and yes the coaches. Especially for Ochoa, whose heroics got us to the semi. But it really was uninspiring sloppy play. Who knows if a different setup would have worked better, but it did seem like the system wasn’t suiting the players. Maybe a defensive counterattacking plan and players would have better suited a team using preseason form MLSers.

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    • Kreis chose his style of players more suited for his type of direct game instead of the possession 4-3-3 game US Soccer has chosen to go with. Who on that roster has creativity, technical ability or a nose for goal? It was ill fated from inception.

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  3. Poor roster selection, poor coaching. we’re all talking about poor drive and no urgency…what about picking players that are on teams that have won something..those players know what needs to be done to dig deep when needed (though not sure how many of those we have)….i think of ebobisse (i think we could have used him) and even kyle duncan (a RB that can defend and contribute offensively, he’s better than herrera)…or how abut we only had one “creative” player on the roster….the job of the coach is to put together the best collection of players not the best players…and kreis did neither…

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  4. You should point the finger at yourself Kreis. It is your fault. From the roster selection of players that are not good enough to beat friggin Honduras to lineup selection to playing GB’s stupid system that produces no shots or goals against a semi good team. Do the right thing Kreis and Resign. Tab saw where GB was going and said no way and he was better than you

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  5. No blame. Better team won, although I’d prefer that the US would have had a chance to finish the inside-the-PA attack stopped per Ref’s observation of a non-existent foul. Biggest takeaway–the talent gap between the U-23s and the USMNT is gigantic.

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  6. True C team. Not a fan excuse C team. No training as a unit. Force fitting a style of play to players who didn’t fit. Coach w a questionable track record, with very questionable roster choices….was he told to take some players? Not a conspiracy guy at all but sure looks like it here. I quite honestly didn’t expect them to qualify. Thank goodness we have passed the …we need the Olympics to showcase players so maybe a Euro team will be interested timeline…but the feeling is that so much here could have been done a bit better. Still easily could have been knocked out, but this time was so bland and plodding. It was a team that was so easy to play against. Oh well.

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  7. Plenty of blame to go around, and it should start at the top with Kreis. This was their fourth game and they looked like they hadn’t even been practicing. After a quick check with the roster, I counted a minimum of 9 players who have played with the senior national team. It wasn’t the lack of talent, but the lack of desire, poor coordination, and very sloppy execution.Glad to see Alexi Lalas and Maurice Edu not pull their punches on what was really a debacle, almost as bad as the loss to T&T that kept us out of the World Cup. They should be both devastated and ashamed.

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    • Kreis had the C team expecting A results. What will be a shame is a handful of these players will be moving on and contesting for 2026 WC spots. See ‘12 & ‘16 Olympic qualifying squads. We have a history of players apart of these failed squads being one dimensional.

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      • Since the best U23s already make up the backbone of the full national team, I’m not sure how many of these guys will ever end up there. Maybe Yuell and/or Johnny could make it as a backup to Adams. Vines has a decent shot for a spot on the full team at LB. Maybe a center back, since right now Richards is the only really young CB with the full team. A lot can change with injuries and players getting better or dropping off, buy right now it’s hard to see many or even any of these guys with the full team.

    • A few of the younger players with future potential will likely get selected for the Gold Cup this summer. There’s no question the senior team needs depth at various positions given the demanding schedule for WCQ. Given more experience and growth, it is likely a few of the players fill backup role.

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