Olympic Qualifying: USA aims to end 13-year drought

Thirteen years.

That's the time the USA has gone without appearing in the Olympic men's soccer tournament.

It has a chance of end its drought on Sunday when it faces Honduras in the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying semifinals at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara.

The winner will advance to the Tokyo Olympics along with the winner of Sunday's nightcap, Mexico or Canada.

Men's Olympic Qualifying Player Ratings:
USA vs. Costa Rica: 1-0
USA vs. Dominican Rep.: 4-0
USA vs. Mexico: 0-1

Honduras is an old nemesis. The Catrachos beat the USA, 2-0, in Nashville at the same stage four years ago to qualify for the Olympics for the third straight time. They have played the USA in the final stage of four of the last five Concacaf under-23 tournaments and won each time (including a shootout win in the 2000 final).

U.S. coach Jason Kreis said Honduras' Olympic success -- four years ago it lost to Nigeria in the bronze-medal game -- won't be a factor in how Sunday's game will play out.

"I don't think Honduras has any more experience or leverage in this situation because the teams that qualify for the Olympics every four years are completely different," he said. "It isn't like this Honduras team has been to the last three Olympics. This is a brand-new Honduras team trying to qualify for a brand-new Olympics, like our team."

The Honduran star in 2016 was Alberth Elis, who later spent four seasons with the Houston Dynamo in MLS and now plays in Portugal. The new Catracho star, 22-year-old Rigoberto Rivas, didn't arrive in Guadalajara from his Italian club, Serie B, Reggina, until Tuesday after the international window opened. He only played in the 1-1 tie with Canada, but Kreis was impressed with what he saw.

"It's another team that has some really nice attacking options," he said.

Kreis singled out the Catrachos' playmaker, Edwin Rodriguez, and his Olimpia teammate, Jose Reyes, a left-footed player who works on the right side.

"The fact they play with two forwards will give us something of a different look than what we have faced in the tournament so far," he said. "That means our back four will have to be connected and in tune with things. It's a dangerous team, a very good team, and I wouldn't have it any other way. We should have to beat a good and dangerous team to qualify for the Olympics."

Honduras will be without its captain, midfielder Kervin Arriaga, though. Kreis described Arriaga, who is suspended, as the "heart and soul" of the Honduran team.

The USA has no one suspended for Sunday's game, though Hassani Dotson, who leads the USA with two goals scored in the 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic, suffered an ankle sprain against Mexico and is questionable to start, according to Kreis.

Before the tournament, the question mark about the USA was at center back, where Kreis brought three players, Justen Glad, who has yet to earn a cap for the senior national team despite trips to the last three January camps, and Mauricio Pineda and Henry Kessler, who  were rookies in MLS in 2020.

"I have been really pleased with all three," Kreis said, noting the nervy moments when they have lost focus and given the ball away in bad positions. "What they have done without the ball has been really positive with critical coverage of the outside backs and for each other, some really good tackles."

USA Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): 12-Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union), 1-JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), 20-David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake).
DEFENDERS (6): 2-Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), 4-Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), 17-Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake), 3-Henry Kessler (New England Revolution), 5-Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), 13-Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids).
MIDFIELDERS (7): 16-Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA), 18-Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United), 8-Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal), 15-Andres Perea (Orlando City), 10-Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM/MEX), 11-Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas), 6-Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes).
FORWARDS (4): 9-Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas, 7-Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), 14-Benji Michel (Orlando City), 19-Sebastian Soto (Norwich City/ENG).

Honduras Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Alex Barrios (Olimpia), 18-Enrique Facusse (RGV Toros FC), 12-Michael Perello (Real Espana).
DEFENDERS (6): 3-Wesley Decas (Motagua), 16-Jose Garcia (Real de Minas), 2-Denil Maldonado (Everton/CHI), 4-Carlos Melendez (Vida), 5-Christopher Melendez (Motagua), 6-Jonathan Nuñez (Motagua).
MIDFIELDERS (7): 20-Carlos Argueta (Vida), 15-Kervin Arriaga (Marathon), 17-Jose Pinto (Olimpia), 7-Jose Reyes (Olimpia), 10-Rigoberto Rivas (Reggina/ITA), 14-Joseph Rosales (Independiente/PAN), 8-Edwin Rodriguez (Olimpia).
FORWARDS (4): 9-Juan Carlos Obregon (RGV Toros FC), 19-Douglas Martinez (Real Salt Lake), 13-Luis Palma (Vida), 11-Darixon Vuelto (Real Espana).

4 comments about "Olympic Qualifying: USA aims to end 13-year drought".
  1. Bob Ashpole, March 28, 2021 at 12:46 p.m.

    At least Kreis didn't hint that he wanted to use 5 backs to mark the 2 opposing forwards.

    Best wishes for success to the whole team. Get it done.

  2. Wooden Ships replied, March 28, 2021 at 1:09 p.m.

    I'm worried, worse than nervous. We have to find at least two scores. I do like Ferreira though. Djorde can unlock, Dotson and Michel can threaten. Don't know that we have enough. 

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, March 28, 2021 at 2:04 p.m.

    Well, we soon will know if we can get past Honduras. If we can't, then we don't belong in the Olympics. 

    What I dislike greatly is the USSF management's control of decisions that ought to be made by the best coaches we have who are actually working with the players. The autocratic leadership style of USSF, however, drives experienced people away instead of building on the existing knowlege base. Then someone new comes along, has no experience coaching the players and wants to change everything to the "right" way of doing things. 

    Corporate America rewards individuals who best fake competence, rather than reward competence. USSF operates exactly like Corporate America does, and it promotes personal careers at the expense of the organization's goals. That is far off topic for this forum though. 

  4. Santiago 1314, March 28, 2021 at 6:01 p.m.

    Kick Butt, Take Numbers.!!! ( for 1st 15) Then worry about Soccer.!!!

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