Mario Rodriguez

AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

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

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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.

WATCH: All the goals as Morris, Herzog’s U.S. U-23s reap big win over Mexico

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A steely group of hopeful Olympians looked ready for prime time, and Jordan Morris scored against a Mexican side for the second time in a week.

Morris, Christian Dean and Mario Rodriguez scored goals for the home side as the United States U-23 side scored a 3-0 win over Mexico on Wednesday night in California.

The trio symbolize just how far the U.S. Olympic team has come, with Rodriguez a member of Borussia Monchengladbach, Morris a Stanford University player and Dean a player for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

[ MORE: USWNT reveals World Cup kit ]

Southampton goalkeeper Cody Cropped made a handful of fine saves for the States, including a diving stab at a first minute shot from the Liga MX-heavy Mexican team.

All the goals came after halftime, beginning with Rodriguez’s finish of a play started by Fatai Alashe (San Jose) and Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake):

Ten minutes later, Dean was in perfect position to head home Colorado Rapids playmaker Dillon Serna’s curling left-footed free kick:

And Morris finished things off with this lunging, classy poke of a Shane O’Neill (Colorado) cross:

In an otherwise even game, the U-23s finished off three of their chances and defended well enough to pick up a clean sheet (thanks in large part to Cropper).

Next up, from USSoccer.com:

The U-23 MNT next comes together for the Toulon Tournament, which runs from May 27-June 7 in Toulon, France. The USA will face France (May 27), Netherlands (May 29), Costa Rica (May 31) and Qatar (June 2).