U.S. U-23

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U.S. U-23s have talent, experience to exorcise Olympic qualifying demons

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Let’s begin here: If the United States fails to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in men’s soccer, it should probably abandon the U-23 program.

That’s pretty haughty considering the Yanks have failed to qualify in three of the last four tournaments including the 2012 Games in the United Kingdom and 2016 edition in Brazil, but consider the talent on show for this March’s friendlies against Egypt and the Netherlands in Spain.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up v. Ecuador? ]

There are Bundesliga upstarts Josh Sargent and Haji Wright, not to mention Celtic’s Tim Weah. Chicago Fire midfielder Djordje Mihailovic is in the fold, as are defenders Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City), and Atlanta United’s Miles Robinson.

And, oh yeah, they’ll get to add three Over-23 players while also potentially including several eligible players currently with the U-20s, full USMNT, or not called into March camp (Jonathan Lewis, Erik Palmer-Brown, Jonathan Amon, Luca de Torre). Even if the opposite happens and guys make the full USMNT or get injured, there’s depth here and plenty of it.

There have always been names when the Yanks have failed in qualifying, but hardly these degrees of depth and experience. In 2016 qualifying, Matt Miazga, Wil Trapp, and Emerson Hyndman were on the squad which couldn’t get the job done. 2012 saw Joe Gyau, Terrence Boyd, and Bill Hamid.

But this group could be special, favored not just to qualify but to rival others for a spot on the podium. The hiring of longtime MLS boss Jason Kreis to oversee the group is another good decision, and he’ll have this crop of players (and more) from which to select his lineups.

Goalkeepers: Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose)

Defenders: Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City), Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers), Jack Maher (Indiana University), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Donovan Pines (DC United), Lucas Pos (Lausanne), Antonee Robinson (Wigan), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United)

Midfielders: Derrick Jones (Philadelphia), Cameron Lindley (Orlando City), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago), Keaton Parks (NYCFC), Eryk Williamson (Portland), Jackson Yueill (San Jose)

Forward: Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland), Josh Perez (LAFC), Emmanuel Sabbi (Hobro), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Tim Weah (Celtic), Haji Wright (Schalke).

Colombia ends U.S. Olympic dreams 2-1; Yanks finish with 9 men

AP Photo/Brandon Wade
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Roger Martinez scored a powerful pair of road goals to lift Colombia into the Olympics with a 2-1 win, 3-2 on aggregate, over the United States on Tuesday in Frisco, Texas.

The Colombians were dominant, only conceding on a goofy own goal, while the Yanks barely survived most of the match thanks largely to goalkeeper Ethan Horvath.

The U.S. have now missed three of the last four Olympics in men’s soccer, including two-straight cycles.

Any hopes of a comeback were effectively sealed when substitute Luis Gil picked up a pair of needless yellow cards within 10 minutes of subbing on. The second came thanks to embellishment from Colombia.

Then Matt Miazga was given a straight red for a last man back foul just before stoppage time.

[ USMNT: Guatemala recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

Colombia has the best early chance to score when Desevio Payne slipped while trying to dribble out of the back, allowing Quintero a chance on goal that Horvath parried well.

It was Miagza’s time to make a pretty huge error on a diagonal ball in the 11th minute, but Colombia was unable to capitalize on the second ball back into the mixer.

Five minutes later, it was Wil Trapp with a big hiccup that gave Colombia a break on goal, but Horvath made an incredible single-paw save to deny an opener.

A Colombia goal had the aire of inevitability. It came in the 30th minute, off an extremely poor spell of defending. A missed clearance and marking that was nearly as bad allowed Martinez to blast a left-footed shot past Horvath.

The U.S. met its attack late in the first half, as Colombia’s aggression got the better of it for a 10-minute period leading right up to halftime, but it remained 1-0 heading into the break.

Colombia forward Roger Martinez (17) works against U.S. defender Kellyn Acosta (2) for space during the first half of an Olympic qualifying soccer match Tuesday, March 29, 2016, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Andi Herzog brought on Jerome Kiesewetter in the second half, hoping the striker’s chemistry with Jordan Morris might liven up the attack. Paul Arriola came off.

[ MORE: Plane flies “#FireKlinsmann” banner over USMNT match ]

As the U.S. kept momentum up in the second half, we saw why Kellyn Acosta is dangerous on the wings. Still, the Yanks could not get inside the mature Colombian defense.

An otherwise stellar Tim Parker was fortunate not to pick up a straight red card for an early second half stamp. He picked up a yellow for his troubles.

Soon after, the U.S. tied it on an own goal when Emerson Hyndman’s lofted pass was headed into the Colombia goal.

An essentially invisible Jordan Morris was pulled for fellow MLS youngster Khiry Shelton in the 62nd minute.

The deadlock was short lived, and Colombia’s second goal gave the game an academic feel. Parker was beaten by Martinez, who sliced a shot past Horvath to give Colombia a second road goal.

The U.S. was very close to equalizing the leg when Acosta totally fluffed a header across goal.

The States managed a pair of red cards in the second half. One was a second yellow for Gil and the second to Miazga with a meltdown tackle in a game that saw meltdowns from both teams.

U.S. lineup for Olympic playoff qualifier sees Payne, Arriola in for Miller, Gil

AP Photo/Fernando Vergara
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Andi Herzog is switching up his side just a little bit for the second leg of the United States U-23 national team’s Olympic qualifying playoff against Colombia.

The Yanks drew Colombia 1-1 on Friday in Barranquilla, with Mario Rodriguez linking up with Luis Gil for the U.S. goal.

A win or 0-0 draw will put the U.S. through to the Olympics, while a 1-1 draw would force extra time.

[ PHOTO: Plane flies “#FireKlinsmann” banner over USMNT match ]

But Gil is on the bench to start the home tie this evening, as is Eric Miller, as Paul Arriola and Desevio Payne move into the starting lineup.

Payne will likely play outside back, moving Acosta to his club position of mid (though Matt Polster could slot in there as well).

Ethan Horvath came through the injury that forced him out of Friday’s draw, and will start in goal for the Yanks.

US U-23: Horvath; Payne, Miazga, Parker, Polster; Trapp, Acosta, Hyndman, Arriola; Morris, Rodriguez

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

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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
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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.