Haiti goalkeeper Luis Valendi Odelus (left) has emerged as one of the stars in the CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship. (Photo: Mexsport)
CARSON, California -- Haiti goalkeeper Luis Valendi Odelus was on his back, lying inside the half circle at the top of his penalty box. He placed his hands on his face as an assistant coach checked on his condition.
Other than being somewhat fatigued, Odelus was fine physically. A narrow 1-0 loss to defending champion Mexico eliminated Haiti from contention in the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Championship with a game to play.
The result and the performance, though, left Odelus emotionally exhausted. As he stood up, the custodian wiped away tears from his face.
Odelus held the Tricolor to only a single goal, which came via a penalty kick in the 73rd minute. Second-half substitute Raul Lopez converted adamantly, burying the attempt to the left of Odelus, who was warmly congratulated for his efforts by Mexican fans after the game.
The 20-year-old called upon to deny Mexico throughout the encounter.
He stretched diagonally towards the upper left corner of the goal to thwart Marco Bueno in the ninth minute. Then, eight minutes into the second half, Odelus did well to parry away Hedgardo Marin’s header for a corner kick. For good measure the Aigle Noir product blocked Hirving Lozano’s point-blank shot inside the six-yard box in the 64th minute as the Pachuca star dribbled in at full speed
“I was glad that he was back there for us since he saved two or three goals,” said head coach Marc Collat. “He was the man of the match for me.”
The Mexicans kept firing away, but the Caribbean champion – which had eight players on its roster born in 1995 or later -- held strong.
“I wasn’t surprised the way Mexico played, but I did expect for us to be very defensive,” Collat added. “We did well in that aspect, but Mexico was able to move the ball and find a way to win the game with the penalty.”
Both sides travel to Commerce City, Colorado, for their last Group B matches on Wednesday. Mexico (2W-0D-0L, 6 points) will face Honduras (2W-0D-0L, 6 points) for the group crown, while Haiti (0W-0D-2L, 0 points) takes on Costa Rica (0W-0D-2L, 0 points).