US men’s soccer misses 2nd straight Olympics

March 30, 2016

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The United States failed to qualify for consecutive Olympic men’s soccer tournaments for the first time in a half century, a collapse players found hard to address on analyze.

Roger Martinez scored twice, Americans Luis Gil and Matt Miazga were ejected and Colombia’s under-23 team defeated the U.S. 2-1 Tuesday night to earn the last berth in the Rio de Janeiro Games with a 3-2 aggregate win in the two-leg, total-goals series.

Following a nightmare in Nashville four years ago, when the Americans were eliminated by El Salvador, they had a fiasco in Frisco.

“You dream about it since you were a little kid,” forward Jordan Morris said, “so, it’s a tough one to swallow.”

Coach Andi Herzog said it wasn’t the right time for him to dissect the Americans’ poor performance.

“I’m real emotional, and I don’t want to say anything without coming down a bit,” Herzog said. “I’m really disappointed.”

Martinez redirected Andres Roa’s off-target shot past goalkeeper Ethan Horvath in the 30th minute. An own goal by Delver Machado tied the score in the 59th, with the defender heading the ball over goalkeeper Cristian Bonila while trying to clear Morris’ pass from Emerson Hyndman.

Martinez put the Colombians back ahead in the 64th minute, eluding Tim Parker at the 6-yard box and beating Horvath. At that point, because the first tiebreaker is away goals, the Americans needed to score twice.

“We give up such a simple, stupid goal,” Herzog said.

The U.S. then showed its frustration. Gil, who scored in the first leg, entered in the 67th minute and was given a yellow card by Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov in the 72nd minute for pushing Helibelton Palacios after a confrontation deep in the U.S. end, then was given a second yellow five minutes later after clashing for a ball with his hands high with Wilmar Barrios.

Miazga received a red in the 90th minute for pulling down Christian Borga, who was running onto a ball just outside the penalty area on an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

The U.S. had last failed to qualify for consecutive Olympics from 1960-68. Colombia will make its first appearance since 1992.

U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said the 2012 group of under-23 players was set back by its failure to play at the London Olympics and he made qualifying for Brazil a priority, installing top assistant Herzog as under-23 coach.

But the Americans were forced into the playoff by losing to Honduras 2-0 last October in the semifinal round of the regional qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Before a crowd of 7,998, the Americans were outshot 11-5, including 6-0 in shots on target, increasing Colombia’s advantage to 29-10 and 12-1 over the two legs.

Herzog made two changes to his starting lineup, inserting midfielder Paul Arriola in place of Gil and for Desevio Payne started instead of Eric Miller.

Horvath was back in goal. He left the first leg late in the first half after colliding with Colombia’s Andres Renteria just outside the penalty area.

The Americans’ defeat prevented a sweep for the U.S. men’s program Tuesday. The national team beat Guatemala 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier at Columbus, Ohio.

This game resembled the loss to Honduras. The Americans were outmuscled once again.

“When a team played real physical against us, we didn’t have any power, any assertiveness up front,” Herzog said. “That’s disappointing.”