Luis Gil

AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

Herzog proud, confident US U-23s will qualify for Olympics ahead of 2nd leg

1 Comment

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.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

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.

[ MORE: USMNT embarrassed in Guatemala | Player ratings ]

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.

Three things from the U.S. U-23’s 1-1 draw with Colombia in Olympic playoff 1st leg

Leave a comment

After an hour or so of allowing my heartbeat to return to a normal rhythm given the relentless Colombian attack and its threats to crush my Olympic dreams or at least the chance to watch the U.S. men play soccer in the Olympics, I’m ready to speak.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Here’s three things we learned from the 1-1 draw in Barranquilla on Friday.

CENTER BACK(S?) ON POINT

Three years ago, Tim Parker (above) was playing in the NPSL. Two years ago, he was a St. John’s team that went 4-10-4. Last year, he was breaking into the lineup for the Vancouver Whitecaps, also on loan to their USL side.

Tonight, he was the best player on the United States men’s U-23 national team, keeping the flame burning for a nation’s men’s Olympic hopes.

Parker combined with Matt Miazga (Chelsea) to form a solid backbone for Andi Herzog’s unit, and he was a step above his center back mate. Given the relentless pressure provided by the Colombians, it’s a minor miracle they didn’t find a second goal. But they didn’t… and Parker was the main reason why.

ADJUST MUCH?

Herzog’s plan for the first half-hour, keeping a very narrow midfield in a bit of a 4-3-1-2, frustrated and flustered Colombia. It arguably kept them off-balance enough to allow Mario Rodriguez to set up Luis Gil for the opening goal.

The second half, though, had the U.S. looking disjointed whenever they found possession. Granted Herzog was forced into an early sub when goalkeeper Ethan Horvath was hurt, but his two remaining subs were used to take out Gil and Rodriguez.

United States' coach Andi Herzog instructs players during a U-23 first leg soccer match qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics against Colombia at the Roberto Melendez Stadium in Barranquilla, Colombia, Friday, March 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Kellyn Acosta and Jordan Morris were gasping for air, and Acosta was toasted on the right flank time and again. Some are writing that off as Acosta playing out of position — he’s a DCM for FC Dallas — but regardless he needed to be moved. He could’ve slid into center for Gil if the midfielder needed to come off that bad, but it was clear it wasn’t his night against a dangerous wide attack.

We saw this in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, too. Herzog show some terrific game-planning and seems to be a heck of a coach, but his adjustments have been disappointing.

AIR JORDAN

As in gasping for air. Jordan Morris might be the great hope of the United States, but we’ve seen he’s far from a finished product. His outside of the right foot bender off the crossbar was gorgeous to watch, but that’s a left-footed shot he passed up to take it. And we’re not talking about a “He thinks two steps ahead of the goalkeeper” right-footer, but a “He went out of his way to use his right” right-footer. Disappointing.

Then again, Morris was gassed and playing in terrible heat (the pregame index was a “real feel” of 102). He’s also on the heels of his busiest and most unrelenting game sequence of his career (full college season, trial with Werder Bremen, Sounders preseason, starting role for Seattle). He can be forgiven, but we’d love to see him breakthrough for club and country ASAP, thanks.

United States' team pose for a group photo prior to the U-23 first leg soccer match qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics against Colombia at the Roberto Melendez Stadium in Barranquilla, Colombia, Friday, March 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

U.S. takes Olympic qualifying playoff edge with 1-1 draw in Colombia

AP Photo/Fernando Vergara
4 Comments

It was gutty and ugly, but the United States is in the driver’s seat for Olympic qualification after one leg of its playoff with Colombia.

Luis Gil scored a fifth minute road goal and the U.S. then held on for dear life against rampant Colombia, allowing an equalizer but nothing else to the hosts in a 1-1 draw in Barranquilla on Friday.

Juan Fernando Quintero scored for the Coffee Makers. The second leg is Tuesday in Frisco, Texas.

[ MORE: Watch Gil’s opener, read first half analysis ]

Gil’s opener came in the fifth minute and was the only shot on target for the Yanks in the first half. Mario Rodriguez carried to the end line and cut back to the penalty spot, where Gil was waiting unmarked to hit a low shot.

Colombia pressed hard and could’ve equalized on several occasions, but was well-denied by Molde keeper Ethan Horvath. He needed to come out after a late half collision with Andres Renteria, and MK Dons backstop Cody Cropper entered the match.

The hosts just missed making it 1-1 early in the second half when Harold Preciado got on the end of a free kick but couldn’t redirect his header inside the near post.

United States' goalkeeper Cody Cropper, right, fails to block Colombia’s Juan Quintero from scoring from the penalty spot during a U-23 first leg soccer match qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics at the Roberto Melendez Stadium in Barranquilla, Colombia, Friday, March 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

The final 45 minutes — maybe 60 — were ugly, as the Herzog’s U.S. side jammed up its own box with defenders against a very dangerous, crafty and desperate Colombia.

The U.S. countered in the 64th minute, and Jordan Morris came close to doubling the lead but doubted his left foot.

He used the outside of his right foot from 19 yards to crank one off the crossbar. It would’ve looked gorgeous had it gone in, but his left foot had the whole right side of the goal.

That’s when Kellyn Acosta took down an embellishing, but fouled, Rafael Santos Borre in the box and Quintero finished his PK past Cropper to make it 1-1.

The U.S. center back partnership of Tim Parker and Matt Miazga was solid in the draw, and Vancouver’s Parker especially stood out as a strong, decisive back against a relentless and dominant Colombian side.

Longtime RSL attacker Gil leaves MLS for Liga MX side Queretaro

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

One day after Omar Gonzalez left Major League Soccer for Liga MX, another American-based player is taking his game south of the border.

Luis Gil, 22, is leaving Real Salt Lake after six seasons at Rio Tinto. Out of contract after a 2015 season that saw him short on minutes, Gil is opting for a new challenge with Queretaro of Liga MX.

[ MORE: Andy Rose leaves Seattle for Coventry City ]

Twice capped by the USMNT in 2014, Gil finishes his time at RSL with 11 goals and nine assists in 134 career appearances.

The Clausura season runners-up, Queretaro also boasts U.S. veteran Jonathan Bornstein in addition to Paraguay forward Edgar Benitez.

Olympic qualifying: USA hammers Cuba, 6-1

Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The United States under-23 national team is officially into the semifinals of the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, one win away from qualifying for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, after hammering an overwhelmed and undermanned (five players have defected since joining the team this week) Cuba side, 6-1 here at Sporting Park.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Olympic coverage | USMNT ]

Cameron Carter-Vickers put the Americans on the board in the 16th minute, when he headed home Luis Gil’s free kick from no more than four yards out. Gil’s in-swinging ball beat the first line of Cuban defenders and fell ever-so-perfectly to the head of the retreating Tottenham Hotspur center back.

Matt Miazga gave the U.S. U23s a deserved 2-0 lead in the 36th minute. Matt Polster whipped in the out-swinging cross, Miazga rose above multiple defenders nine yards from goal and sent a looping, bouncing header for the far post where Cuban shot-stopped Sandy Sanchez could do nothing about it.

[ MORE: Get to know the current USMNT U-23 squad ]

Two minutes later, Jordan Morris fed Jerome Kiesewetter his first goal of the tournament on a silver platter. Gil played Morris, who scored twice off of Kiesewetter assists Thursday night, into the penalty area. As Sanchez raced out to close down Morris’s shooting angle, the Stanford University standout squared the ball to Kiesewetter at the top of the six-yard box. No mistake from Kiesewetter, who slotted the ball home first-time.

Kiesewetter made it 4-0 to the U.S. U-23s in the 49th minute. Marc Pelosi crossed the ball from wide of the six-yard box, past the scrambling Sanchez, all the way across the endline. Kiesewetter, 22, was waiting at the far post and hammered the ball into an empty net.

[ MORE: USA 3-1 Canada (Thursday night) | Three things we learned ]

Emerson Hyndman’s finish from a tight angle made it 5-0 in the 69th minute.

Alonso Hernandez made it 6-0 in the 76th minute. Gboly Ariyibi played the FC Juarez striker into the penalty area, where a thoroughly defeated Cuba defense was slow to close him down. Hernandez for the near post and bagged his first goal of the tournament.

Daniel Luis scored Cuba’s late consolation goal in the 92nd minute.

Up next for the U.S. is a clash with Panama on Tuesday in Commerce City, Colo. A draw secures top spot in Group A, meaning the not-so-baby Yanks would play the runners-up from Group B (Mexico are expected to finish top) in the semifinals. The two semifinal winners secure automatic qualification for next summer’s Olympics. If the U.S. lose on Tuesday, Canada could finish top with a win and the making up of seven goals in the goal differential column.