Olympics

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U.S. U-23 men learn group opponents for Olympic qualifying

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The United States knows the opponents on its path to a first men’s Olympic berth since 2008.

Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica will be the Yanks’ group stage opponents between March 20-26 in Mexico.

Honduras, Haiti, Canada, and El Salvador comprise Group B.

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Jason Kreis’ U-23 side will need to finish first or second in its group and then win its semifinal to clinch a spot in Tokyo 2020.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Richie Ledezma, and Jonathan Lewis were in Kreis’ last group of call-ups, while players like Miles Robinson, Josh Sargent, and Timothy Weah are among the eligible.

Andreas Herzog’s Yanks cruised through group play in 2015 before being stunned by Honduras in the semi, then losing a two-legged playoff with Colombia.

The U.S. didn’t even escape the group stage in 2012 under Caleb Porter.

Women’s qualifying begins Jan. 28 in the United States, the ladies facing Costa Rica, Panama, and Haiti in group play.

Olympic Roundup: Mexico and Argentina bounced, Germany obliterates Fiji

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Olympic soccer continues to frustrate South American powers.

With Brazil struggling mightily, Argentina was dumped out of the competition, eliminated after a 1-1 draw with Honduras where a victory was needed for the two-time Olympic champions.

With the match scoreless, both sides sandwiched halftime with missed penalties. Antony Lozano converted one from the spot for Honduras in the 75th minute, and while Mauricio Martinez pulled it back level in injury time with a deflected free-kick, it was too little too late.

The result sends Honduras through to the quarterfinals, finishing second in Group D on goal differential. The Group D winner was Portugal, who played to a 1-1 draw with Algeria, enough to give them a seven-point performance in the group stage.

Mexico was also ousted following a vastly disappointing 1-0 loss to South Korea. Kwon Chang-hoon scored in the 75th minute to send the defending champions home. Mexico was in command through most of the first half and early second half, but could not convert a number of chances. Carlos Cisneros was most wasteful, coming agonizingly close twice in the second half.

The win gave South Korea the top spot in Group C. Germany made it through in second place, thrashing Fiji 10-0. Arsenal’s Serge Gnabry starred for the Germans, with a pair of goals. Max Meyer was also prolific, bagging a hat-trick by the 52nd minute. The Pacific Games qualifiers were vastly overmatched throughout group stage play, finishing with just a single goal scored and 23 against.

Finally, Colombia defeated Nigeria as both teams secured spots in the knockout stage in the process. Nigeria was already through before kickoff with two wins through its first two matches, securing the top spot in Group B. The Colombians moved on with the 2-0 victory, going ahead just four minutes in via Teofilo Guitierrez and doubling their advantage past the hour mark as Dorlan Pabon converted from the spot.

Brazil still has yet to play, needing a win over Denmark to secure a spot in the quarterfinals. Kickoff for that game is 9:00 E.T. The hosts have been listless through their first two matches, playing to a pair of draws against Iraq and South Africa.

USWNT looks for blowout sendoff to Olympics with Costa Rica visit

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After three-straight tough opponents, the United States women’s national team once against sees a foe it routinely kicks across the field.

Amelia Valverde brings Costa Rica to Kansas City on Friday for the Yanks’ last match before the World Cup champions leave for the Olympics in Rio.

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This will be the fourth time the two sides have matched up since the start of 2015, and the U.S. has had plenty of success. Jill Ellis has presided over 8-0, 7-2 and 5-0 wins, the last result coming in Olympic qualifying.

The U.S. needs to be firing on all cylinders when the Olympics begin on Aug. 3 against New Zealand, their opponents just one of three challenging group stage foes (France and Colombia are also in Group C).

Costa Rica tied both Spain and South Korea at last summer’s World Cup, only losing to Brazil 1-0, but has lost all 13 of its contests against the USWNT. Friday should be a feel-good night for Ellis’ squad.

Injury means Brazil won’t have Douglas Costa for Olympics

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Bayern Munich brings us the disappointing news that star midfielder Douglas Costa has pulled out of the Olympics.

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The 25-year-old attack-minded Costa was one of three overage players on the roster for the Games in Rio, but a thigh injury has cost him the chance to represent the home nation.

From FCBayern.de:

“I greatly regret this,” commented FC Bayern München AG chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “We all wanted Douglas to contest the Olympic Games in his home country, but the player’s health and fitness takes priority.”

I don’t want Orlando fans to hate me, but could Kaka take his place as an overage player (He’s just returning to fitness for the Lions)? Hulk? Alex Teixeira?

It’s fine that David Beckham is returning for the Closing Ceremony

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Steve is up in arms (well, as up in arms as our loveable PST leader gets anyway) about David Beckham returning to London for the Closing Ceremony of the 2021 Olympic Games.

Why?

Because Sir Becks (knighthood to come, eventually, inevitably) will miss the Los Angeles Galaxy’s match against Chivas USA.

I see the argument — a perversion of the old club versus country mentality — but I disagree Beckham should stay for a (relatively meaningless) regular season game.

Two things: 1) This is about Beckham and 2) This is about the Olympics.

The latter first. Beckham should have, would have, could have been on the Great Britain Olympic team. If he had been, he would miss the entire month. So, Bruce Arena, etc. were prepared to play without him. That doesn’t give Beckham free reign to leave, but it does provide a bit of perspective. Anything the Galaxy get out of Beckham this month is a BONUS.

Plus, the Galaxy star really cares about these Olympics. It’s actually rather sweet.

“Obviously, being an East End boy and growing up there, having the Olympics in that part of London is a very proud moment for us all. It was a great experience. Being part of it, being part of such a historic moment for England, it was special,” Beckham told MLSSoccer.com.

Yes, yes, there’s a bit of Bend it like Beckham spin there, but everything I’ve read indicates that he genuinely cares about these Games. I’m not cynical enough to think that everything he does is for the sake of the brand. The East End boy just wants to see his city succeed.

But also, this is David Beckham we’re talking about. He’s more than a player in MLS; he always has been and always will be. Continuing to question his dedication to the Galaxy and MLS in general is an exercise in stupidity or a willingness to close your eyes. He’s dedicated, but Beckham does what Beckham wants. These things are not mutually exclusive. He played in the All-Star Game. He’s playing tonight against Real Madrid. Then, he’s going to London to participate in one of the most important moments in his country’s recent history (no, not the Spice Girls reunion). Then, he’ll come back and play for the Galaxy again.

He’ll be here when it matters in the playoffs (unless he gets suspended again, which is a topic for another day); it’s fine for him to go now.