NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The United States' Olympic campaign is over almost before it began.
The Americans needed a victory over El Salvador to advance to the semifinals of CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. Nearly 8,000 fans, evenly split between the American and El Salvador colors, witnessed a back-and-forth affair at LP Field that saw the US score early, lose the lead, storm back, and then ultimately fail at the death.
Jaime Alas' goal on a Sean Johnson blunder in second-half stoppage time tied the match 3-3, sending the Central American squad through to the semifinals at the top of Group A, and sending the Yanks home for good.
Lester Blanco and Andrés Flores also tallied for El Salvador, while Terrence Boyd netted a brace and Joe Corona scored for the US.
It took the United States just 61 seconds to go up 1-0. Off an American throw-in, Brek Shea powered past three defenders down the left flank and sent a cross to Boyd. The Borussia Dortmund striker deftly volleyed the ball out of the air with his left foot, beating Jimmy Cuellar to the goalkeeper's right.
El Salvador were the better team after the goal, and the USA backline reverted to a boot-the-ball-out-of-danger philosophy. At the half hour mark, American netminder Bill Hamid tweaked his knee on the grass. Johnson replaced him in the 39th minute, but not before a flurry of action left the Americans in a hole.
The Salvadorans equalized in the 35th minute off a corner, when Blanco beat Kofi Sarkodie to the ball at the near post. His header beat a flat-footed Hamid, who had no chance.
Only two minutes later, the USA fell behind. Jonathan Aguila mishit a shot from outside the 18-yard box but Flores rushed on to it and put it past the D.C. United 'keeper while the American back four watched.
A flurry of USA attacks before halftime created a few dangerous chances but did not result in a goal.
After the break, the hosts continued their pressure, using the flanks better than they had against Canada. Freddy Adu nearly scored in the 58th minute on an excellent stop and turn, but Cuellar tipped his left-footed blast past the post.
The breakthrough was coming, however, as Boyd's second of the night made it 2-2 in the 65th minute. Adu's seeing-eye pass found its way through three defenders and to the striker's right foot. His one-time effort beat El Salvador's charging 'keeper.
It was Corona who put the USA on top just seconds later. Mix Diskerud spotted Adu on the right side of the field, and the Philadelphia Union midfielder hit a looping cross to the left post. Cuellar looked to have a bit of indecision about whether to come out, and Corona's glancing header spun into the back of the net.
El Salvador manager Mauricio Alfaro inserted Darwin Ceren for Diego Chavarria in the 72nd minute and brought on Herbert Sosa for Blanco in the 87th minute, with Porter countering with Michael Stephens and Joe Gyau.
An exhausted USA held strong, but it was not to be. Alas ended the American's run in stoppage time. His 20-yard strike bounced before the Johnson, who tried to fist the ball away but it glanced off his gloves and into the net.
El Salvador’s opponent in the semifinals will be determined by Tuesday night’s Group B action at the Home Depot Center.
Hamid (Johnson '39); Sarkodie, Opara, Kitchen, Villafana, Diskerud, Okugo, Corona (Stephens 88'), Adu (Gyau 90+'), Boyd, Shea
Cuellar; Molina, García, Mendoza, Chavarria (Ceren '72), Gutiérrez, Alas, Larín, Menjivar, Blanco (Sosa 87'), Cuellar, Flores