SANDY, Utah—Throughout CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, the United States Under-23 national team didn't have a problem scoring goals, averaging a goal every 13 minutes in group play.
Then they faced Honduras.
The U.S. couldn’t solve Honduras’ defense in the tournament semifinal, losing 2-0 and missing out on their best opportunity to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Despite scoring in bunches during the group stage, the U.S. was shut out completely by Los Catrachos, coming up empty when it counted the most.
“We were not good offensively,” said head coach Andi Herzog. “We have to be honest: Honduras did a really good job defensively. We were not able to break them through, either with good passes behind the back line or with quick combinations through the middle. That’s what we trained, what we prepared. It’s always easier to do it in the training session than in the game when it really counts and today, like I said, we were not good enough.”
Honduras’ defense consistently stifled the US U-23s, handling everything thrown at them save for a negated Jordan Morris goal in the 83rd minute, one wiped out by a controversial offside call.
Herzog admitted that Honduras kept the U.S. from executing their intended offense.
“Our game plan was to find Luis Gil in the open spot, because we had a 4-against-3 advantage in the midfield," Herzog said. "We weren’t good in our passing game today. Maybe a few players were a bit too nervous. Already the first half, some players didn’t look real fresh, then after [going] 1-0, Honduras’ best strength is wasting time. At the end, they deserved to win.”
The road to the Olympics has become significantly more complicated for the United States. Not only will they have to win the third-place match on Tuesday, but subsequently must travel to Colombia and win a one-game playoff.
The U.S. knows they have a tall task ahead of them, and it all becomes moot if they can’t win the first one. Midfielder and captain Wil Trapp said that the team will have to move on quickly if they want to keep their Olympic hopes alive.
“We have to win. Plain and simple,” Trapp said. “That’s all it takes. There’s no other way. We can’t read into this result anymore. It’s over, as disappointing as it was. We’ve got to move forward.”