FRISCO, Texas—For the second straight Olympic cycle, the Americans are staying home.
The US Under-23 national team was unable to hang with Colombia, falling 2-1 at Toyota Stadium on Tuesday night after being outplayed in nearly every facet of the game.
“You get one chance at this,” said an emotional Jordan Morris after the match. “You dream about it since you’re a little kid. So it’s a tough one to swallow.”
It was a bittersweet day for US Soccer, as the loss came off the heels of a dominating 4-0 victory by the senior team to stave off what would have been near-certain elimination from 2018 World Cup Qualifying.
The US U-23 team struggled to generate any chances and they played in their own third for much of the game, while showing a lack of defensive discipline. They ended the match with nine players after two red cards and they accumulated six cards in total.
“There will be a lot of tough battles, sometimes nasty,” said U-23 head coach Andreas Herzog. “We have to play nasty, too. But we don’t have to provoke stupid fouls around the box. But even worse is a red card.”
Several of those defensive breakdowns were erased by remarkable individual efforts, but even those who reeled off highlights were culpable – Vancouver Whitecaps defender Tim Parker was spun around trying to recover position on Colombia's go-ahead goal. That proved especially deflating, as it came just six minutes after the Americans were given a lifeline: Colombian defender Deiver Machado's attempted header floated backward over his own 'keeper for an own goal.
“If you want to qualify for the Olympics or an Under-23 tournament, it’s already kind of professional,” Herzog said. “You have to sometimes in situations do a better job, because a good team like Colombia will score out of the situation. That’s why we’re now sitting here.”
The Americans have not participated in the Olympics since 2008 in Sydney, where they failed to advance past the group stage. Now, it will be at least a 12-year drought until the next time they have a chance to qualify.
Herzog said he wanted to step back and analyze why exactly the U-23 team didn’t develop to a point where it could reverse the 2012 mishaps. But going forward, he made it clear he expects his team to contribute at the next level.
“We didn’t qualify for the last two Olympics now, and for me the next sign is who is making an impact on the men’s national team,” Herzog said. “With this group, we’ll see in the future. With the last group, I don’t know if there are three or four players already that are starters on the team, and that’s how it should be.”