DOWN, BUT NOT OUT
U.S. confident entering final Olympic group match vs. El Salvador
By Michael Lewis
NASHVILLE — If the U.S. Under-23 team was a beaten team in the wake of the 2-0 upset by Canada in CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying, the Americans weren’t showing it on Sunday.
In fact, they sounded quite confident that they will get past El Salvador and clinch a semifinal spot in their final Group A match on Monday at 9 p.m. ET.
“We went to bed yesterday [with] side effects, but I’m looking forward, and I know the rest of my team is looking forward to a new game against El Salvador,” U.S. midfielder Mix Diskerud said at the team’s hotel. “We know [El Salvador] is a good team. They’re technical and their formation’s good as well. But I think we’re better.”
Considered overwhelming favorites to not only advance out of its group and qualify for the London Summer Games, the U.S. (1-1-0, three points) was outplayed by Canada (1-0-1, four) at LP Field on Saturday.
The worst-case scenario is tying or losing to El Salvador (1-0-1, four) and winding up failing to qualify for the Olympics for only the second time since 1976. The Americans failed to reach Athens 2004.
“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” U.S. captain Freddy Adu said. “I believe that we’re going to be there.”
He added that a loss “is not really something that’s in my head.”
Adu and his teammates felt the most important thing was to forget about the Canada loss and look ahead.
“Tomorrow is our final, and everybody understands that,” he said “We know what we have to do to move on. Guys look motivated.”
“It’s important to be able to respond in the right way because you’re going to go through adversity, and you have to have a short memory,” said Adu. “We’re going to work hard to right the ship.”
If the U.S. wins, the most likely scenario would be a second-place finish and a probable meeting with Group B Mexico (2-0-0, six) in the semifinals in Kansas City, Kansas on Saturday. That is not a prospect either team would want, particularly the underachieving U.S. The Americans defeated Mexico in Frisco, Texas on Feb. 29, but El Tri is in form after outscoring its foes (7-1 over Trinidad & Tobago on Friday and 3-0 over Honduras on Sunday).
The U.S. still can clinch first by defeating El Salvador and Cuba (0-2-0, none), but that is highly unlikely because the Caribbean side has been outscored by its opposition, 10-0, in its first two encounters.
“We can’t worry about not getting first place,” defender Perry Kitchen said. “At this point, we’re just trying to get to the next round. We have to have a short memory with this game coming up because there’s no time to dwell on what happened. We just weren’t sharp. We need to be better.”