On March 25, El Salvador prevented the United States from qualifying for the Olympics with a 3-3 draw in Nashville, Tenn. After a 2-0 loss to Canada in the second of this three-game, round robin tournament, the Americans needed to win to advance.
The U.S. under-23 team was in a must-win situation against El Salvador, something nobody would have predicted at the start of this qualifying campaign. El Salvador was in the same position, having to at least tie or win to move on to the semifinals. This loss was especially disappointing considering that the U.S. was eliminated by Ghana in the last World Cup. I personally was confident the U.S. would win since its first win ever over Italy last month.
The team also displayed confidence, quickly showing they were eager for a bounce-back performance after their lost to Canada. The U.S. got out to the best possible start, as Terrence Boyd scored just 61 seconds into the game. Things were going great, until starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid came out limping after El Salvador scored twice in a three-minute span in the first half to go up 2-1. He was replaced by backup Sean Johnson (and I’m not that I’m saying Johnson is a bad player). After Boyd knotted the score in the 65th minute with another expert finish, and Joe Corona — whose mother happens to be a native of El Salvador — laid a header from short range in the 68th minute which gave the U.S. a 3-2 lead, the game began to look up .
"The last 20 minutes after our third goal, all those minutes felt like very, very long hours. But I thought we were going to make it. Everybody thought we were going to make it," Mix Diskerud said after the game.
Then, officials added four nail-biting minutes of stoppage time onto the game. With just seconds left from advancing to the semi-finals, a surprise 25-yard shot by Jaime Alas bounced off the hands of Johnson and into the goal.
The tie dropped the U.S. to 1-1-1 and third place in Group A of the CONCACAF four-team round-robin. Now the under-23s have failed to make two of the last three Olympics.
“Obviously last night is a huge disappointment on many levels and for everyone involved,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. “We’ve been very successful over the last 36 years in being at most of the Olympic Games on the men’s side, so it’s a big setback.”
This is very true since the only time in recent history the United States didn’t participate in the Olympic tournament was in 2004, and the only time before that was in 1976.
Though many insiders of the soccer world think the U.S. team was a disgrace and don’t think they will qualify for the World Cup, I think it is way is too early to say how this loss would affect the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, and qualifying for it.
"Is it a disappointment? Yes. Is it a failure? Yes," former national team defender Alexi Lalas said after the loss. "Is the sky falling? Absolutely not."