Luis Gil (#10) celebrates after converting a penalty in the USA's first game against Canada in the CONCACAF Men's Olympic Championship on October 1, 2015, in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo: Mexsport)
SANDY, Utah – In the 2012 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship (CMOQ), the United States failed to advance beyond the group stage, ending a hopeful journey to London much earlier than expected.
Well, if it wants to participate in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the lengthiest expedition possible will be required.
A 2-0 loss to Honduras in Saturday’s semifinals will force the Americans to beat Canada in the match for third place on Tuesday and then they will have to overcome Colombia in a playoff next year.
“Everyone is really disappointed and sad,” said U.S. head coach Andreas Herzog, who is suspended for the Canadian encounter. “Now we have to swallow this. It’s tough, but at the end now we have to win the next game and we have to go to Colombia.
“We had a chance to do it the short way. Now, we’ll have a longer trip.”
After going a perfect 3-0-0 in the group stage, scoring 13 goals and conceding only two, the U.S. ran into a one-man wrecking machine in Honduras’ Alberth Elis. The 19-year-old striker scored both goals with laser-accurate shooting.
After scoring three goals or more in each of its Group A games, being shutout was a shock to the system, especially considering Honduras netted two goals or fewer in each of its first three outings.
“It is always different between a group stage where you already win the first game and the second against Cuba we had a lot of confidence,” noted Herzog. “This is the knockout phase. This is the most important game in the tournament. It’s a different mental thing and we were not able to deal with the situation. That’s sad, but that’s the truth.”
On the positive side of the ledger, the U.S. beat Canada, 3-1, earlier in the competition. Memories of that performance should provide a confidence boost.
Herzog had this message for his squad: “OK, heads up, we have to shake this off.”
If not, as the U.S. already knows, four years is a long wait for another Olympic opportunity.