USA's long Olympic men's soccer nightmare is over

After an absence of 16 years, the USA will play in the men's soccer competition at the 2024 Paris Olympics.


Mikey Varas' U-20s did not just beat host Honduras, they ran the Catrachos off the field in the first half, scoring three goals that held up for a 3-0 win before a packed house at San Pedro Sula's Estadio Morazan.

They did at the Concacaf Under-20 Men's Championship Friday night what U.S. teams couldn't do at Concacaf U-23 tournaments in 2012, 2015 and 2021. They booked tickets to the Olympics.

How many of the U-20s will be on the plane to Paris in two years remains to be seen. They will have the Under-20 World Cup next year in Indonesia to further their case to be included in the squad of 15 under-23 players and three wild-card players for the men's soccer competition. But competition will be fierce. The players on the Olympic team will include players born in 2001 and 2002 who did not get a chance to play in an Under-20 World Cup because of the Covid-19 pandemic and players born in 2003 or later whom Varas picked from.

Already 15 Olympic-eligible players have played for the senior national team, among them at least three players who have a chance to start at the World Cup in Qatar later this year: Yunus Musah, Gio Reyna and Ricardo Pepi.

"We talked with the boys and told them they can do something selfless for our country,"  said Varas in his post-game Concacaf interview. "The Olympics will actually be for an older age group and possibly these guys won't be part of that.  We wanted to make sure we changed history."

Concacaf did the USA a big favor in changing the format of Olympic qualifying to make its U-20 championship a double qualification tournament.

The USA's nightmare at the U-23 level has overshadowed its increasing regional dominance at the U-20 level. It has won the last two Concacaf under-20 men's championships, in 2017 and 2018, and will be heavily favored when it faces the Dominican Republic in Sunday's Concacaf U-20 final in San Pedro Sula.

It's no coincidence, given the increasing resources that MLS clubs have been putting into their academy programs. The USA traveled to Honduras without Real Madrid target Gaga Slonina (Chicago Fire) and three players who made their debuts in big 5 European leagues in 2022 — Justin Che (Hoffenheim), Luca Koleosho (Espanyol), Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg) — but there was plenty of other talent still available.

Every U.S. starter against Honduras grew up in an MLS academy program except Caden Clark, who joined the New York Red Bulls organization from the Barcelona Residency Academy in Arizona when he was 16. Guatemala is going to the U-20 World Cup for the second time in 25 attempts. The Dominican Republic is going to its first ever FIFA world championship at any level. The best players on both teams are products of the academies of MLS teams that did not exist in 2018, the last time Concacaf held U-20 qualifying: Guatemala's Quimi Ordonez (FC Cincinnati) and DR's Edison Azcona (Inter Miami). Mexico's best player in its quarterfinal loss to Guatemala was another American attacker: Johnny Perez (LA Galaxy).

The first half against Honduras was as good a performance the U.S. U-20s have put on in a game that mattered as I've ever seen, and I've been following the U-20s since 1980 when I watched them beat El Salvador, 2-0, at Princeton University.

Varas' boys overwhelmed the host Catrachos, who never recovered from Paxten Aaronson's opening goal in the 3rd minute when he was wide open in front of the goal to put away Philadelphia Union teammate Brandan Craig's free kick.

Alejandro Alvarado
(excellent once again in midfield) and Quinn Sullivan (tied for the tournament lead with six goals) took advantage of mistakes by goalkeeper Juergen García to add second and third goals in the first half, but the lead was richly deserved.

The third goal followed a string of 33 U.S. passes that ended with a failed dribble and errant Honduran clearance, 14 more passes that ended with a U.S. throw-in, and eight more passes before captain Daniel Edelman's 25-yard through ball to Clark, his New York Red Bulls teammate who rounded Garcia and redirected the ball toward the goal, where Sullivan was waiting on the doorstep.

"Many teams in that situation won't continue to try to find solutions with the ball," said Varas afterward in his U.S. Soccer interview. "And these guys were incredible. That first half is something I won't forget any time soon."
July 1 in San Pedro Sula
Honduras 0 USA 3.
3: Aaronson (0-1)
22: Alvarado (0-2)
43: Sullivan (0-3)
Honduras -- J.García; Arriaga, Rodas, Zuniga, Contreras (Mencía, 65), Rocha, Ramos (Macías, 46), Sorto, Arzu (A.García 46); Carrasco, Aceituno (Nunez, 75).
USA -- Brady; Halliday, Craig, Ferkranus, Cuevas (Allen, 53); Alvarado (Tsakiris 71), Edelman, McGlynn (Luna 61), Sullivan (Wolff 62); Aaronson (Hopkins, 71), Clark.
Red Card: Honduras -- Macias 87.


29 comments about "USA's long Olympic men's soccer nightmare is over".
  1. Peter Bechtold, July 2, 2022 at 6:31 a.m.

    Great victory! This was the first time that a USNT, male or female, actually looked like a soccer team. Winning per se does not suffice despite Santi,s mantra JUST WIN!
    Winston Churchill was right when he said about three quarters of a century ago that the USA can be counted upon to eventually do the right thing,after exploring all other options first.
    Now can we promote their coach to the senior national team?

  2. Santiago 1314 replied, July 2, 2022 at 7:06 a.m.

    I agree, Move the Coach Up... He Listened to Santi.!!!;

    "Santiago 1314, July 1, 2022 at 1:19 a.m.

    Pound the Ball into the Corners for the 1st 30 minutes, get them Tired out, and Probably making a Technical or Tactical Screw-Up in their Own Defensive 3rd... Pounce on the Mistakes, get Up 2-0, then "Grind It Out".... JUST WIN, BABY WIN.!!!"

    I'm so Happy I could Cry.!!!!.
    10s for EVERYONE.!!!

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, July 2, 2022 at 7:08 a.m.

    Actually; if the USSF is Smart AND JUST.!?!?!?

  4. Bob Ashpole, July 2, 2022 at 7:15 a.m.

    While play wasn't perfect by any means, the team was playing really well in the first half. In simple terms, they played into the gaps over and over again. I think the combination play speaks well of the coaching staff. I would be more enthusiastic, but the opponent's high press shape was poor creating huge gaps between the lines. 

  5. Santiago 1314 replied, July 2, 2022 at 7:52 a.m.

    They were Shockingly Poor,... But, No Poorer than any other CONcacaCrApF Team... We should Dominate these Teams, Exactly as the "Game Plan" here Exposed... It Ain't "Rocket Science"

  6. humble 1 replied, July 2, 2022 at 10:07 a.m.

    The difference in this vs past performances was that (1) the level of coaching preparation was very high - they new how Honduras would play and they had a plan. (2) the level of player preparation was equally high. Player execution cross the board was very good. Well done to staff and players.  That Honduras did not adjust was a poor reflection on their staff.  Next up the amazing Domincan Republic.  Totally different challenge.  Two baseball nations going at it in a soccer final!

  7. Santiago 1314 replied, July 2, 2022 at 12:14 p.m.

    So Funny Humble... Liked that Baseball retort.!!!..:)

  8. Frans Vischer, July 2, 2022 at 10:05 a.m.

    Congrats to our boys! A wonderful, well-played win! I agree with the above assessments, though I must state that Honduras made us look good- their marking was awful, and they gave our boys acres of space in the middle. 
    But this is a great boost to the game in this country- now let's hope MLS teams give these guys more minutes. They proved they deserve it!

  9. frank schoon, July 2, 2022 at 10:43 a.m.

    I watched the first half until the 3rd goal was scored....Lots of long balls from both sides reminding me of high school soccer... The USA was the stronger team and deserve to win. But the game had way too much space afforded to both teams. McGlynn ,who I think is the passer of any of the American players of any age group including the current national team. He is the first American player that could actually pass a ball, which the rest of our players lack.. Do you mean the others can't pass, no ofcourse not, but it is very difficult for me to explain technically if you see what he has that is different from the other players...

    Everybody, is excited about the team, I'm more interested in the player, for that particular team has a shelve life and will be gone but not the player. The McGlynn, needs direction, and guidance to become, I think, as a good passer, distributor, which we don't have. We need to bring in former passing greats to work with this kid, like a Valderama, a Pirlo, Redondo, Allesandro, etc, or other great passers who can help him about the 'real details' of the game...He has a chance to move up his game but he needs a former greats to work otherwise its a loss for him.

    In this game McGlynn was given way too much space to operate in around midfield and that's because Honduras played very defense, afraid to move up their backfield to midfield, their 2 strikers were constantly outnumbered 5v2 on defense around midfield, because the mids didn't support them...I think Honduras had the wrong strategy, furthermore both teams had way too much space between the lines.
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  10. frank schoon, July 2, 2022 at 11:09 a.m.

    I much prefer McGlynn to play on the left side he's leftfooted. It gives our right flank a better view of our attack, and it allows that flank a better view and receive the ball in relation to the opponent's defenders. McGlynn on the right side is forced to give more vertical ,instead of diagonal passes, which makes it awkward for his right flank attack. It can cause the right flank receiver of his pass to have his back facing downfield, thus slowing him down, and he will often be in a position where the player can is forced to make a choice to either keep an eye on his defender or the ball, which is not the case if McGlynn passes from the left side of midfield for his receiver on the right flank able to his defender and the ball both.

    McGlynn has the capability of making a mid-range pass to drop in front of his teammate which you rarely see ,if any, from American players. It is rare today to see a ball being passed in the air, unless it's a longball,  for a certain distance to takes a little touch  which our  American Turbo boys lack....

    What McGlynn needs to work on and expand his range and create give and go's, which can end up as a shot on goal, as well. He's still very predictable in his actions as far as passing goes. Making this long diagonal cross passes to the left side, takes longer for he needs to make an extra maneuver which is not necessary if playing on the leftside. Furthermore he likes to receive the ball to his feet and then make the action and likewise his pass is often to the feet of the flank player...all of this takes too much time.

    He need to pass to the flank to a running player not a waiting player. And if he plays on the left side of the midfield, he will have 2 kinds of passes to his left wing, which is either behind the defender of to the wing himself. In other words a player like McGlynn could really help Pulisic's situation. One ,he would have a true passer to send him, and two, he can give Pulisic more space to operate by passing the ball to the other flank with minimum time and three Pulisic doesn't have to run back on the defense as much

  11. Santiago 1314 replied, July 2, 2022 at 12:19 p.m.

    McGlynn Hoddle JR... So, bring in Glenn Hoddle.!!!

  12. frank schoon replied, July 2, 2022 at 12:32 p.m.

    Hoddle, can trap a ball with left and pass with his right and vice versa.  Let's be happy that we have someone who can pass a ball with more consistency and is non-turbo....

  13. Bob Ashpole replied, July 2, 2022 at 5:38 p.m.

    I am going to have to watch McGlynn more. He was replaced by Luna, who doesn't impress. Yes Luna runs fast with the ball in the middle third, but he is tactically slow and predictable.

    The short passes you used as examples for McGlynn are not technically difficult. That leads me to believe that their scarcity is due to coaching, not a lack of ability.

  14. frank schoon replied, July 2, 2022 at 7 p.m.

    Bob , not short passes but medium range, the  ones I meant he didn't do last night, but in an earlier games.  They are air bound over defender and drop for his teammate.  

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, July 2, 2022 at 8:52 p.m.

    I will take a look. Thanks Frank. 

    After you mentioned him the first time, I have been trying to watch him more but, the way they televise with close views, it wasn't easy to do. I like to look for tactics and decision making. I can see that it would be easier to just watch technique, but I am not made that way. :)

  16. frank schoon replied, July 3, 2022 at 9:58 a.m.

    Bob, I never of McGlynn nor am I familiar with any of those playerrs. So when watched a pass being made that went of the head of the opponent, not a hard pass but well felt directed pass, that reached his teammate about 15meters further where he didn't have attempt and run for it, got my attention. This types of passes you don't see hardly or never in the American style of game...And then I saw it again, which told me this pass was made with purpose....It was in the Canada-USA game that you had mentioned was on Youtube....

    So I began to look at McGlynn with more focus. Now in the Honduras game he didn't have to do much for he was given so much time and space to judge him by. But he is very disciplined in his style of play and knows and plays like a midfielder whose job it is to support his front line which is not the case with our midfielders on the MNT, who often forget that they are midfielders first. 

    Just watch him in this game and the Canada and get an opinion. Yes, he can improve in a lot of categories, no doubt, but he has a chance to be best midfielder when in ball possession to create movement on the field which our current crop of MNT midfielder think is done by running with and creating a little mischieve...Let me know what you think...

  17. Philip Carragher, July 2, 2022 at 3:38 p.m.

    I watched the first half and we dominated. I kept waiting for Honduras to show up and they didn't. We won most of our 1v1 contests and I don't know if I've ever seen a U.S. men's team do that as convincingly, but, again, is Honduras that bad or were they exhausted, sick, or something? H's defensive blunders made them look like they came to the field directly from happy hour. We combined well even in tight spaces and that surprised me. I like that Aaronson shoots quickly and thought his foray across the box followed by an ineffective pass was a missed opportunity for him to shoot. With a little coaching up his play at 9 would improve greatly (more goals). This is not to say he isn't playing well because he is.

  18. Santiago 1314 replied, July 2, 2022 at 7:36 p.m.

    Philip, you really put into Words,  what I have been trying Say as to an "American Style" of Play... "We combined well even in tight spaces and that surprised me."... It doesn't Surprise Me;
    While everyone else seems to want us to Play; "Positional Play"(Tiki-Taka)... 
    I think we should play "TURBO-TAKA"(I just Coined that one)

    GegenPress...Steal the Ball, in Opponents Third... THEN
    Quick, Twitchy, Creative, DIRECT-TO-GOAL Touches...
    WITH A "TERMINATION OF PLAY EVENT"(Goal, Shot-on-Goal, Shot Over the Goal(Goal Kick), Corner Kick, Penalty Kick.
    If you Lose the Ball in Opponents Third;
    IMMEDIATELY FOUL THE OPPONENT IF YOU LOSE THE BALL ON ATTACK(No Chasing Back needed)... You don't get Caught in Transition.

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, July 2, 2022 at 8:58 p.m.

    Santi in positional play you don't need to foul after losing the ball because you already are perfectly placed to isolate and win the ball back.

    The foul-to-get-time-to-recover idea is a legacy of "vertical" play where the team shape gets all stretched out before losing the ball.

  20. Santiago 1314 replied, July 3, 2022 at 7:07 a.m.

    Let me Re-Phrase that:....When you Lose the Ball on Offense;  IMMEDIATELY Press; and get a TERMINATION to their Possession within 7 seconds... Winning the Ball Back, would Obviously be our 1st Desire... Then things like Throw-Ins, Goal Kicks... THEN Fouls...
    True that Tiki-Taka gives you More Players around the Ball, When you Lose It, But, it also means you are More Susceptible to a Counter, if they Break thru, ESPECIALLY if they get out with a 40 yard Diagonal Switch.

  21. R2 Dad replied, July 3, 2022 at 8:46 a.m.

    Santi, that sounds just like Barcaball! I didn't know you such a big fan!

  22. frank schoon replied, July 3, 2022 at 10:10 a.m.

    Guys, Philip, Santi , I have to disagree with you about us playing well in small spaces. One thing this game offered was plenty of time and space for all players...When we talk about being able to play in small space means something totally different to me, it means to me good ballhandling skills in small space, technically speaking which is not a characteristic of US players. 

    The Honduras defense was not only poor but made of Swiss cheese...And taking that into account when you have Turbo type of players with a little ball skill, they can with speed dominate a defender who is waiting for you to come at him. Honduras was so defensive- minded that they were stuck with their heels in the ground, so to say. Their lines were so spread apart, it even made McGlynn look so much better than he is... Don't use this game as a standard to say we played good in small spaces, for that characteristic is not found among US players...

  23. Santiago 1314 replied, July 3, 2022 at 11:08 p.m.

    Let's be Clear ... "Rondo"(5v2) and "GegenPressing"(Channel//Pressure-Cover-Balance{Trap}) have been Staples of our National Team and Coaching Schools since the '88 Olympic Team... This idea that Tiki-Taka(Positional Play) is something "New"; is NOT NEW to those of us from then.. ... My Problem with "FarçaBall" (As evident in The Xavi/MessiLESS versions of it)...Is they will Play "Positional" to the Detriment of Trying to Score Goals or Entertain the Fans...These Teams are Generally, Physically Weak Players without the Physical Attributes to Solve the Game Individually, They must instead depend on a "Drilled Regime" of 30 grids and "Over-Passing" to put the Other Team( and the Fans) To Sleep... In the Meanwhile one of your Players makes a Technical or Tactical Mistake in your Own Third and your Out Of The Olympics.!!!.. SEE David Ochoa ... "BrainWashing" FORCING the Players into Playing "Out of the Back" is Not something that is in the USA DNA... It's Boring and COACH Controlled Heavy...
    Everything in Moderation and let the Players Play... Especially this Gifted, Twitchy group that we have now.

  24. Bob Ashpole replied, July 4, 2022 at 9:40 a.m.

    Santi my recall is that the coaching practices that you mentioned for youth soccer dated back to the 70s. In my view most people in the US don't understand positional play. They see patterns of play and don't take into account the differences in attacking a zone defense vs a man to man defense. I will refer to "Tiki-Taka" here as Dutch Style Principles of Play. One of the keys is that everybody attacks and everybody defends. What most people miss is the concept that positions should be strong both defensively and offensively regardless of who has possession of the ball. Just like chess should be played. 

    As long as US coaching doctrine is based on seeing the game in four phases, they aren't teaching Dutch Style Principles of Play. Speaking from experience, it is difficult to understand that style from a soccer-view of four phases of play, because in that view there is only one phase that begins with the kickoff. The advantage of the Dutch Style is that it is much faster tactically. You don't lose time adjusting positions in the "transistion" phases.

  25. Santiago 1314 replied, July 6, 2022 at 5:22 p.m.

    humm,,,, Interesting Bob,
    So the (4) Phases you are Talking about are;???
    Technique, Tactics, Fitness Psychology.(USSF called them Pillars)
    or are you talking about some other Phases.???

  26. Bob Ashpole replied, July 6, 2022 at 8:26 p.m.

    Santi: offense, tranistion to defense, defense, transition to offense. 

    That has been USSF and USYSA doctrine since at least the 70s that I know of.

  27. Philip Carragher, July 3, 2022 at 6:46 p.m.

    I could have been more precise. Our boys found themselves in tight spots when taking the ball on the half turn in the midfield and then distributing quickly or separating quickly. I don't remember any "rondo-tight space manuvers/escapes" but hardly ever was H able to tackle the ball away. This surprised me.

  28. Scott Chaney, July 5, 2022 at 10:49 a.m.

    Becky will continue to get beat by faster younger players. Not her fault...she's simply aging out. Tick-tock goes the age clock!! Hey coach, get smart, go with younger and faster players!!! 

  29. Bob Ashpole replied, July 6, 2022 at 8:35 p.m.

    Scott, the primary quality of a CB is being able to read the game--anticipation. Same with a DM. The play comes to the player who doesn't have to chase the play.

    For fullbacks and wingers speed is desireable because they often have to chase the play after a turnover.

    The best defensive line I played in had 2 CBs with shot knees so they couldn't move well laterally. The fullbacks pushed the attack inside funneling them into the CBs. Even 20 yards in front of our goal. The CBs never missed a tackle. That was the only back line I ever played in where we pushed the attack into the center. Point is CBs don't have to be sprinters. If they do, then something went very wrong, and usually multiple things.

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