With a little help from Cuba, the United States had a great shot to win the Olympic Qualifying group. All we had to do was win against El Salvador in the group finale from Nashville.
Canada failed to defeat Cuba, who entered the game in Nashville with a -10 goal differential with 0 goals scored and 10 against in two previous matches, a 6-0 loss to the United States and a 4-0 loss to El Salvador. Evan James gave Canada a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute, and Canada looked to clinch the group with a win. But, Cuba goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper saved every subsequent shot on goal to prevent Canada from increasing their lead, and then, Maykel Reyes headed in a Dayron Blanco free kick in the 91st minute. Amazingly, Cuba tied Canada 1-1 with their first goal of the tournament coming in injury time of the final game. Canada finishes with 5 points, with a win over the United States and a draw against El Salvador and Cuba. Canada will be in second place in the group no matter what, and will play Mexico in the all-or-nothing semifinals. A win over El Salvador gives first place to the USA.
So, the United States just needed a win over El Salvador in Nashville to win the group. Easier said than done. Actually, the USA started strongly. Brek Shea sent in a beautiful cross to Terrence Boyd, who volleyed the ball in the net in the first minute to put the United States on top 1-0. But, it wouldn't be so easy.
Bill Hamid had an ankle injury in the 32nd minute limiting his mobility. Sean Johnson started warming up, but Bill Hamid stayed in the game. He shouldn't have. The next shot on goal by El Salvador, a header by Lester Blanco off a corner kick in the 35th minute, went in to tie the game. Just two minutes later, Bill Hamid was unable to get to a long pass to the back post, and Andres Flores got there first to seize the lead at 2-1 in El Salvador's favor. Finally, after allowing two goals in two minutes, Bill Hamid left the game for Sean Johnson in the 39th minute.
At the half, El Salvador led 2-1. Then in the second half, Freddy Adu took over. The Supermidget sent in a series of crosses and finally one found Terrence Boyd, who scored to tie the game at 2-2 in the 65th minute. Minutes later, Freddy Adu sent in yet another beautiful cross to Joe Corona, who headed it into the goal for an improbable 3-2 United States come-from-behind lead. El Salvador gave up after that and punched Terrence Boyd in the face off the ball near the end of the game, leaving him bloody but no card since the referee didn't see it. Finally, in desperation, El Salvador's top player, Jaime Alas, shot from long distance in the 93rd minute. Sean Johnson wasn't ready for it and somehow was caught out of position. Goal, El Salvador.
Final score, El Salvador 3-3 USA. El Salvador wins the group with seven points, with wins over Canada and Cuba plus a draw against the United States. Unbelievably, the United States were eliminated from the Olympics on an unforgivable error by Sean Johnson.
I am VERY disappointed. If Bill Hamid hadn't gotten injured, hadn't stayed in the game, hell, if Sean Johnson could have paid attention for just one minute longer...
But, no dice. El Salvador will most likely play against Honduras with the winner getting an unlikely Olympic berth. Mexico will beat Canada for the other. The US U-23's will watch from home. The blame falls on Caleb Porter, who didn't substitute Bill Hamid when he was injured and allowed two goals. Shame, coach Porter, shame on you!
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