[OLYMPIC QUALIFYING]Canada earned a deserved 2-0 win over a very poor USA team on second-half goals by Doneil Henry and Lucas Cavallini in Saturday's Concacaf Olympic qualifier in Nashville, Tenn. The loss set up a nightmare scenario for USA, which will likely need to beat El Salvador just to reach the semis and then have to play (probably) Mexico for a berth at the London Olympics. And it will have to do so without star Juan Agudelo, sidelined with a knee injury. For a look at what happened and what lies ahead ...
CANADA SIMPLY BETTER.Some horrendous defending -- goalie Bill Hamid and defender Ike Opara were both at fault on both goals -- allowed Canada to score two easy goals on set pieces, but the neighbors to the north were the more dangerous team for the last hour of the game after Evan James, the former Charlotte college star, came on for the injured Babayele Sodade.
Ghanaian-born Randy Edwini-Bonsu gave the U.S. backline fits, and the Uruguayan-based Cavallini was a tricky customer. And in goal, Canadian keeper Michal Misiewicz played with confidence, preserving the shutout with two excellent saves late in the game.
The only down note for the men in red: Edwini-Bonsu's bizarre red card after he left the game.
AWFUL U.S. SHOWING.Hamid and Opara will get the blame for the loss -- a tie would have basically been as good as a win in terms of semifinal advancement scenarios -- but the front five, many of whom came into the qualifying with big (and growing) reputations, was mostly awful.
Freddy Adu played like the player who flopped in Europe: unable to beat players on the dribble and largely predictable with his passing. Joe Corona had a hat trick against Cuba but was subbed at halftime against Canada.
U.S. coach Caleb Porter blamed Canada's tactics for the USA's failure to get anything done in midfield. The U.S. attack consisted largely of runs by Brek Shea and Corona's replacement, Joe Gyau, but they aren't so good as to be able to trouble an organized defense like Canada put out.
In place of Agudelo, who tore the meniscus in his left knee in the Cuba opener, Teal Bunbury, whose form has suffered in the last six months, was ineffective, and the highly touted Terrence Boyd was invisible.
WHAT LIES AHEAD.Assuming Canada beats or ties Cuba in Monday's opener, the USA will need to beat El Salvador just to reach the semifinals. And if Canada beats Cuba -- a 6-0 and 4-0 loser in its first two games -- the USA will need to defeat the Salvadorans just to claim second place.
The two group winners will face the second-place teams from the other groups in Friday's all-important semifinals at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. Mexico won its first game in Group B with a 7-1 win over Trinidad & Tobago. Honduras defeated Panama, 3-1, in Friday's other game at the Home Depot Center.
The USA did beat Mexico, 2-0, when they met three and a half weeks ago, but this U.S. team was a shadow of the team that won at FC Dallas Stadium. And it will be without Agudelo and midfielder Alfredo Morales, who was not recalled by German club Hertha Berlin. (In Morales' place, Jared Jeffrey, who has yet to advance beyond the Mainz II team in Germany, struggled against Canada.)
Recent history in Olympic qualifying has shown that you can take nothing for granted in Olympic qualifying. Four years ago, Mexico didn't even get out of its group. Eight years ago, Mexico finished second in its group, setting up a semifinal match against the USA, which it defeated, 4-0, in Guadalajara.
That U.S. team included the likes of Landon Donovan, mentioned in many reports as a possible candidate as one of the three over-age players for the 2012 Olympics.
Everyone certainly got ahead of themselves on this one. The USA has gone from a sure-fire finalist at the London Olympics to a team fighting just to get to Kansas City.
March 24 in Nashville, Tenn.
USA 0 Canada 2. Goals: Henry 57, Cavallini 84.
USA --Hamid; Valentin, Kitchen, Opara, Villafana; Jeffrey (Okugo 76), Diskerud, Corona (Gyau 46); Adu, Bunbury (Boyd 55), Shea.
Canada --Misiewicz; Fresenga (Stinson 68), Teibert, Attakora-Gyan, Henry, Bekker, Piette, Sodade (James 23), Cavallini, Davies, Edwini-Bonsu (El-Masri 90).
Red Card:Canada -- Edwini-Bonsu 90.
Referee: Jafeth Perea (Panama).