Olympic dream turns into nightmare in Nashville

[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).
Att.: 10,578.

9 comments about "Olympic dream turns into nightmare in Nashville".
  1. Zack Bird, March 24, 2012 at 9:06 p.m.

    I wish Agudelo was able to play. There was no presence up top without him.

  2. Jogo Bonito, March 25, 2012 at 7:45 a.m.

    yea the US missed him dearly. I hate to be so simplist, but Canada wanted this win more. US never really established possession of the ball. Ball possession would have created more scoring chances and limited kept Canada's confidence level down. Also, while you can't really fault a goalkeeper when your team doesn't score, Hamid is another example of the traditional soccer coaches fascination with size and strength. If Nick Rimando allowed that 1st goal in his younger days, he would have been written off as too small.

  3. Carl Hudson, March 25, 2012 at 10:34 a.m.

    Why don't we just take the entire University of Akron team, including coaches and goalkeepers, and have THEM be the USA Olympic Team?

    I say we'd be better off.

  4. Walt Pericciuoli, March 25, 2012 at 11:24 a.m.

    Why are we surprised?Getting out of CONCACAF has been tougher and tougher for the USA for the men.The other teams are improving while the USA is not.Yet except for a couple of minor blips,Mexico has proven to be the dominate force at ever stage while the USA seems to be slipping to 3rd or 4th.Wake up! Major changes have to occur through out our youth programs. What we have is not working.

  5. David Sirias, March 25, 2012 at 11:41 a.m.

    As soon as I saw the lineups I knew we had a problem. Same guys as 48 hours before. = bob Bradley type tournament management !
    When will we learn Yourneys require use of the whole roster Porter made a mistake by not calling Gil and another attacking mid. Did he really thinking mix and corona and brek would play most of 3 games in 5 days ? Play well that is !
    And teal bunbury. Get over it coaches. He does not have it. Not national team material Boyd is so much better and should have started Porter gambled and lost. Now is his greatest test.

  6. Doug Broadie, March 25, 2012 at 12:27 p.m.

    I hate the 4-5-1 formation leaving a strikers on an island. This didn't work with the full nats and it certainly didn't work with the U-23's

  7. Jack Aldridge, March 25, 2012 at 12:55 p.m.

    As a Canadian living/working in the U.S. my allegiance was split. I think we are being too hard on the U.S. Team, they're were some good scoring opportunities. Where the U.S. struggled to make ground was out on the wings and with Canada playing a 4-3-2-1 formation, you can get hung up through the middle if you attempt to move that way.Kudos to Canada on this one, they played a solid game and capitalized on their chances when they got them. I hope to see both teams in London...

  8. Walt Pericciuoli, March 25, 2012 at 6:45 p.m.

    Getting past El Salvador will be very tough, but to also get past Mexico in the semi's?
    Good luck boys, it'll take a super human effort to qualify for the Olympics which our staff has forgotten is the actual goal, not just the destruction and glorification of a very weak Cuba side.

  9. Luis Arreola, March 25, 2012 at 6:54 p.m.

    When oh when will we start looking in the pbvious places for our most gifted and tenical players in the barrios?

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