SANDY, Utah - If the United States Under-23 team is going to continue their trek to the 2016 Olympics, they’re going to have to do it without head coach Andi Herzog on the sideline.
Herzog was ejected in the second half of Saturday’s 2-0 semifinal loss against Honduras after launching into a tirade on the sideline that included tossing his orange bib at the fourth official. As a result, Herzog will miss the third-place game against Canada (7 pm ET, NBC Universo). The US have already beaten Canada once in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship and have the talent and experience to get a positive result, but Herzog’s absence will certainly add to the difficulty.
Assistant coach John Hackworth spoke about the focus the US must have in order to get the win and added that he is confident in the staff and his players.
“What we have to do is put Honduras behind us,” Hackworth told the media before practice on Monday afternoon. “Our sole focus has to be tomorrow and Canada. For both the staff and the players, you have to forget about yesterday, and you have to focus on the now.”
“This is an experienced group of players, and we have good leaders on this team. Our expectation is that we put 100 percent into tomorrow’s game. We’ve already beaten [Canada] once, and to beat the same team twice in the same tournament is always a difficult challenge, but that’s what we have to do. That’s our resolve tomorrow, is to come with our absolute best, put everything we have into it, because if not, it’s over for us.”
The US beat Canada in the tournament opener 3-1 thinks to two goals from Jordan Morris and a late penalty from midfielder Luis Gil. Despite coming off of a 2-0 defeat of their own at the hands of Mexico, Canada will not simply roll over and let the Yanks through.
Additionally, the winner of Tuesday's match will still have to travel down to South America and win a one-game playoff in order to reach the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
First things first, though: The US need a win tomorrow.
“Our minds are focused on tomorrow,” Gil said. “We didn’t get the result that we wanted [against Honduras], but we have to focus on the match tomorrow.”