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El Salvador's U-23s could pose test
by Paul Kennedy, December 6th, 2011 11:47PM

TAGS:  canada, olympics


[SCOUTING REPORT] The USA will face Canada, Cuba and El Salvador in Group A of the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament March 22-26 in Nashville, Tenn. The top two teams in the group will advance to the semifinals, which will decide the two Concacaf berths to the London Olympics men's soccer competition.

The four teams in Group B are Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago. They will play at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

The semifinals (March 31) and final (April 2) will be played at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

The USA will attempt to qualify for the Olympics for the 14th time. Since 1980 and the Olympic boycott, it has played in every tournament except the 2004 finals.

U.S. under-23 national team coach Caleb Porter will hold a training camp Dec. 15-23 in Sarasota, Fla.

Here's a look at the USA's three Group A opponents:

EL SALVADOR. The Salvadorans, who won their Central American qualifying group with victories over Panama and Guatemala, could pose the USA's toughest competition in group play. They feature a nucleus of players from the young team that reached the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup. Defender Moises Garcia and midfielders Jaime Alas and Andres Flores played all four games at the Gold Cup. Lester Blanco, who also played at the Gold Cup, had both goals in the 2-1 win over Guatemala in under-23 qualifying. Garcia and Elman Rivas scored against Panama.

CANADA. Three defenders who played in Canada's final World Cup 2014 qualifier of the year against St. Kitts & Nevis -- Nana Attakora of the San Jose Earthquakes, former Toronto FC teammate Ashtone Morgan and Adam Straith of Germany club Energie Cottbus -- form a core with which Canada will build upon for its bid to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 1984. Two 19-year-olds, Matt Stinson of Toronto FC and Joseph Di Chiara of Russian club Krylia Sovetov Samara, were also called up during Canada's World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign in the fall. It held Mexico to a 1-1 tie four years ago, eliminating the heavily favored Tri in group play, but its bid to qualify for the Beijing Olympics ended with a 3-0 loss to the USA in the semifinals.

CUBA. The Cubans won the Caribbean qualifying tournament, finishing ahead of Trinidad & Tobago, St. Kitts & Nevis and Suriname. Dalain Aira's late goal gave Cuba a 1-1 tie with Suriname in the final game to clinch a berth in the final round of qualifying. Cuba's U-23s finished last in their group at the Pan American Games in October. Aira is part of a Cuban attack that also includes Heviel Cordoves and Maikel Chang. Four years ago, Cuba advanced to the Olympic qualifying tournament but was crippled by the defection of seven players. Cuba has not played in the Olympics since it took the USA's spot at the 1980 Moscow Games.

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