US U-23 national team hopes to be more proactive in return leg vs. Colombia

FRISCO, Texas—In the first leg of their Olympic qualification playoff, Colombia had more than 75 percent of possession against the United States. More than three-fourths. That wasn’t exactly the plan.

The US were able to get out of the away leg with a 1-1 draw thanks to Luis Gil’s early goal and a good defensive showing from center backs Matt Miazga and Tim Parker, but coach Andi Herzog hopes there won’t be as much defending for his players to do in Tuesday’s deciding match (9:30 pm ET; ESPN2, WatchESPN).

"I didn’t want to sit back because of the away goal," Herzog said, at a Monday news conference. "Normally you want to keep playing like we want to."

"My players, after a while, because of the conditions were a little bit tired and then it’s easier to drop back and defend in a compact shape and to go for counters. But from the beginning we wanted to have a normal game – not too deep – and that’s what I expect [Tuesday]."

The American attacking players would love to see more of the ball, though several players interviewed Monday said they were disappointed they didn’t make more of the counter-attacking opportunities that did arise in Barranquilla.

"It was tough in the second half, so we had to take some pressure, and they’re obviously a very good team," said US and Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris, who played the full 90 minutes in Friday’s contest. "But I think for me what I’m going to try and work on – because in that game what we were looking to just counter and it was on and it came close a few times – but look to hold up the ball a little more and look to link.

"I think the way that we defend less is keep the ball more than we did in that game."

To do that, the United States will have to connect better than it did in the first leg, when Colombia connected 86 percent of its passes and the Americans managed just a 58 percent mark. Herzog and Morris hope the home crowd and more pleasant weather conditions help the U.S. impose its style on the second leg to earn a coveted return trip to South America – this time for the Olympics rather than just a qualification match.