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U.S. U23s secure key draw in Colombia
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Action from the Olympic qualifying playoff between the USA and host Colombia (yellow jersey) on March 25, 2016, in Barranquilla. (Photo: FIFA.com)

BARRANQUILLA, Colombia -- The United States held off a relentless Colombia attack for a 1-1 draw in the first leg of an Olympic qualifying playoff at the Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez on Friday.

Juan Fernando Quintero converted a second-half penalty kick after Luis Gil gave the Americans the lead.

The series concludes in Frisco, Texas, on Tuesday night with a berth t0 Rio 2016 at stake.

The Colombians were the more dangerous side, holding an advantage in possession and opportunities in hot and humid conditions, forcing the CONCACAF side to defend most of the match.

Yet, the U.S. drew first blood in the fifth minute. Mario Rodriguez beat Davinson Sanchez on the right flank. Just as the USA forward got to the end line, he cut the ball back to Luis Gil, who fired a 12-yard shot into the left corner past goalkeeper Cristian Bonila for an vital away goal.

Colombia tested goalkeeper Ethan Horvath early and often. In the third minute, Horvath saved a shot by Harold Preciado from the left side of the penalty area and Wilmar Barrios nodded a cross wide left in the 15th minute.

Gil missed a golden opportunity to double the advantage in the 27th minute, shanking Jordan Morris' cross wide right.

Horvath suffered an injury after colliding with Andres Renteria while heading the ball away at the top of the box and was replaced by Cody Copper in the 45th minute.

Cropper quickly was called into action, denying Andres Felipe Roa from 12 yards just after the break.

Colombia remained on the attack for virtually the entire second half and its persistence paid off in the 68th minute, three minutes after Morris blasted a shot from distance off the left post.

Defender Kellyn Acosta was called for a penalty kick after pulling down Rafael Santos Borre in the box. Quintero rifled the PK into the lower left corner past a diving Cropper.

 
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