Emerson Hyndman - US Under-23 - Physical against Colombia
USA Today Sports

US Under-23s outpassed, outfoxed by cunning Colombia: "They played us well"

FRISCO, Texas — Despite coming away from Leg 1 of their CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Playoff with a 1-1 draw against Colombia in Baranquilla, the US U-23 national team were outshot 26-6.

Unfortunately for the Americans, the trend continued in the return leg, this time ultimately doing them in on the scoreboard: Colombia outshot the US, 15-4, and the Yanks failed to record a shot on goal in a stinging 2-1 loss, one that punches Los Cafeteros' ticket to the Rio 2016 Olympics at the expense of the US squad.

“From the beginning, we were not able to play out of the back,” said head coach Andreas Herzog. “We just kicked long balls. We had no power up front to shoot the ball. It just wasn’t good enough today.”

The lone American goal wasn’t even knocked in by an American, instead coming as an own goal off the head of Colombian defender Deiver Machado in the 57th minute. It was a gift for the US U-23s that temporarily breathed life into a previously outmatched team.

Herzog said he changed their formation from 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1 after the own goal to seize the moment. But the resuscitation was just that – a moment that vanished quickly; Colombia showed its physical prowess and manufactured a goal six minutes later.

“It looked a little better than at first, but that’s not difficult because our first half was really poor,” Herzog said. “I thought ‘Okay, now we score, we get back into the game.’ Then we tied the game, and I thought, ‘Okay, even if they were for 60 minutes the better team, now the game starts again. It’s open game for both teams.’ But then we gave such an easy goal away.”

Added defender Kellyn Acosta: “After [the own goal], we started believing. Even before that we were pressing and thinking we could win this game. After that the game started opening up, but then they started killing us.”

Colombia was physical with the Americans for the duration of the match, making life difficult for the US attackers. Forward Jordan Morris acknowledged the physicality and said it caused him to not be at his best.

Acosta agreed with his compatriot, saying the Colombians took advantage of the nuances of the game.

 “They’re physical players, and they played us well. I can’t deny that,” Acosta said. “There’s some guys that are really physical. There was a little bit of embellishment. With the game 1-0, they were kind of going down a little soft. But that’s just part of the game and something we have to deal with.”

It didn’t help the Americans case when substitute midfielder Luis Gil was sent off with a red card in the 77th minute for a tackle and argument with the referee, making an uphill battle even steeper.

But the offensive struggles began far before the cards dictated numbers on the field.

“They came out strong and pressured us quick. They needed that goal, and it showed,” Acosta said. “We were kind of just on our toes really. They just took the game to us.”