U.S. U23 head coach Andreas Herzog (pictured) has the Americans one win away from a place in the 2016 Olympic Games. (Photo: Mexsport)
COMMERCE CITY, Colorado – The United States was impressive in finishing atop the Group A table with a perfect 3W-0D-0L record, scoring 13 goals and conceding just twice.
For as much as head coach Andreas Herzog is pleased with what he’s seen in three matches, however, it means nothing compared to Saturday’s critical CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship semifinal against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
That’s because a win in that match clinches a berth in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“The group stage was great for us, but Saturday, that counts,” Herzog said. “That’s the big game for us. If we get a good rest and get a good [regeneration] in the next one or two days, we will be really well prepared for Saturday. We can beat Mexico. We can beat Honduras. I’m not scared.”
The United States may have a goalkeeping quandary for the Honduras encounter. Zack Steffen did well in victories over Canada and Cuba, but Ethan Horvath came in after a strong performance for Norwegian champions Molde in a draw with Ajax in the UEFA Europa League and claimed a clean sheet against Panama.
“We will see. We will make the decision,” Herzog remarked. “Zack had two very good games. He had a great save against Cuba when we were 1-0 up. That’s not the problem for us. Overall, I’m happy with the performance in the last three games, of course.”
Herzog also singled out the play of Tottenham Hotspur central defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, 17, who also played in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship and the FIFA U-20 World Cup earlier this year.
“He’s really good,” Herzog stressed. “He’s born on the 31st of December, 1997, so he’s by far our youngest player and playing three times 90 minutes without any big mistakes, that’s really impressive for me.”
Also notable has been 20-year-old forward Jordan Morris, the only non-professional in the U.S. squad. The Stanford University star had three goals in the group stage.
“The strange part is he still plays in college and he was already part of the men’s national team,” noted Herzog. “So with his speed up front, for me, it’s important that he learns the right timing, that he anticipates when we win the ball. His first three games, it worked really, really good.”
There was some question whether Morris would be selected for Jürgen Klinsmann’s side in the CONCACAF Cup, but Herzog is glad the forward is with him.
“I’m really happy to have him on my squad,” the former Austria international finished. “I have to especially say thank you to Jürgen for not bringing in for the men’s national team for the 10th of October.”