The United States under-23 national team is 90 — or 120, perhaps — short minutes from qualifying for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.
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With a slim advantage heading into the second leg (1-1 draw in the first leg, but the Americans’ away goal currently stands as the tiebreaker), U.S. U-23 head coach Andi Herzog is feeling not only proud of his side’s first-leg performance, but also confident of finishing the job against Colombia Tuesday night in Frisco, Tex. — quotes from USSoccer.com:
“I think it was a real good game for us, 1-1 is a good result. You could see Colombia and us had a real good fight for 90 minutes. I expect in Dallas for us to be even better than today, and we have a chance to qualify.”
“It was not easy for us. It was real hot here. We were expecting the tough conditions, and that’s why I have to give a huge compliment to my team. Everyone saw that Colombia had a lot of pressure, and at the end they only had one goal.”
“Colombia is a good team that can easily score away from home, too, but we will have a better game at home. I expect another real fight for 90 minutes. It’s still close. Finishing 1-1 with the away goal was huge for us. I saw my team with a great fighting spirit, but at home we have to do a better job in possession and we’ll have a chance to qualify.”
That the not-so-baby Yanks scored the first goal on Friday was a coup that can’t possibly be overstated; the team, as it was set out in a 4-3-1-2 — the entire roster, furthermore — wasn’t ever going to have much success playing from behind and chasing a goal. From Luis Gil’s 5th-minute goal onward, the strength of the side — the central midfield trio of Wil Trapp, Emerson Hyndman and Matt Polster — was allowed to show its quality and truly dictate the tempo of the game.
That same trio will likely be called upon to protect the U-23s’ narrow lead in the second leg, though Hyndman will almost surely be given greater freedom further up the field to combine with and support the like of Gil, Jordan Morris and Mario Rodriguez or Jerome Kiesewetter. Once again, not conceding the first goal is objective no. 1 for the U.S. U-23s, who should they do so, will find themselves in a world of trouble.