U.S. Men's Soccer Team Fails To Qualify For 3rd Straight Olympics

In contrast, the U.S. women's team has won three of the last four soccer gold medals and is favored to win again this summer.
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American players fell to the field at the final whistle. Another missed Olympics soccer tournament for the U.S. men.

Juan Carlos Obreg贸n scored in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time, goalkeeper David Ochoa committed a blunder that gifted Luis Palma a goal two minutes into the second half and Honduras beat the United States 2-1 on Sunday in an Olympic qualification game at Guadalajara, Mexico.

U.S. captain Jackson Yueill pulled a goal back with a curling 23-yard shot in the 52nd minute, but the Americans mis-fired on several good chances to equalize.

鈥淥bviously, we鈥檙e devastated, absolutely devastated,鈥 U.S. coach Jason Kreis said. 鈥淚n our locker room, the guys are like it鈥檚 a tragedy 鈥 a tragedy.鈥

U.S. men had trouble creating chances in the first half, and the Americans missed their third straight Olympics.

鈥淭hey were very well man-oriented to stop players, which didn鈥檛 give us a lot of time to kind of break them down,鈥 Yeuill said.

The American Olympic skid is part of a trend that includes the senior national team missing the 2018 World Cup.

鈥淲e lose an opportunity to play in an international tournament with more pressure, where these players have to be in these environments and continue to improve with that pressure,鈥 Kreis said.

Jonathan N煤帽ez #06 of Honduras fights for the ball with Aaron Herrera #17 of United States during the semifinals match between Honduras and USA as part of the 2020 Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying at Jalisco Stadium on March 28, 2021 in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)
Jonathan N煤帽ez #06 of Honduras fights for the ball with Aaron Herrera #17 of United States during the semifinals match between Honduras and USA as part of the 2020 Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying at Jalisco Stadium on March 28, 2021 in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)
Refugio Ruiz via Getty Images

Olympic men鈥檚 soccer is limited to players born Jan. 1, 1997, and later, and clubs don鈥檛 have to release players.

In contrast, the women鈥檚 tournament is open to senior national teams. The U.S. has won three of the last four soccer gold medals and is favored to win again this summer.

Still, there were chances. Jonathan Lewis鈥 63rd-minute header was headed off the goal line by Wesley Degas, and Yueill鈥檚 free kick in the 69th was batted away by goalkeeper Alex Barrios. Lewis had an open 4-yard shot off Tanner Tessman鈥檚 pass in the 83rd minute but allowed the ball to bounce off a boot. Johnny Cardoso mis-hit an open header in second-half stoppage time.

鈥淚 don鈥檛 know that if I鈥檝e ever seen a game where we鈥檝e had players mis-control the ball so much by going under people鈥檚 feet, passing out of bounds,鈥 Kreis said. 鈥淭hese are things that are just really 鈥 you just really kind of scratch your head, you think of what鈥檚 going on here? But I also have been around the game enough in our country at a pro level to tell you this is what you see in preseasons and at the beginning of MLS seasons it鈥檚 typical.鈥

Kreis had seen similar from his team during the group stage.

鈥淚 think the first half looked a lot like the Dominican Republic first half,鈥 Kreis said. 鈥淲e have players that aren鈥檛 moving. We have people on the ball that aren鈥檛 committing defenders to make decisions, to open up spaces. We have guys that look like they鈥檙e just don鈥檛 really want the ball, and so it just kind of goes back to a mostly mentality for me. 鈥

Honduras advanced to its fourth straight Olympics this summer in Japan after finishing fourth in 2016. Mexico, the 2012 gold medal winner, earned the other berth from North and Central America and the Caribbean by defeating Canada 2-0 in the second game of the doubleheader.

CONCACAF qualifiers join Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, Ivory Coast, Japan, New Zealand, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Spain in the draw, which will be held in Zurich on April 21. The tournament will be played from July 21 to Aug. 7 in Tokyo, Kashima, Miyagi, Saitama, Sapporo and Yokohama.

Jos茅 Pinto #17 of Honduras fights for the ball with Jes煤s Ferreira #09 of United States during the semifinals match between Honduras and USA as part of the 2020 Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying at Jalisco Stadium on March 28, 2021 in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)
Jos茅 Pinto #17 of Honduras fights for the ball with Jes煤s Ferreira #09 of United States during the semifinals match between Honduras and USA as part of the 2020 Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying at Jalisco Stadium on March 28, 2021 in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)
Refugio Ruiz via Getty Images

On a 90-degree afternoon with kickoff at 4 p.m. at 5,100 feet, Honduras went ahead after a clearance by Justen Glad that followed a free kick. The U.S. defense began to move upfield as Edwin Maldonado recovered the ball and quickly made a long diagonal pass. Denil Maldonado sprinted past defenders and sent the ball back across the goalmouth with a diving header and the New York City-born Obreg贸n used his left leg to redirect the ball past Ochoa.

On the second goal, Ochoa received Aaron Herrera鈥檚 back-pass just outside the 6-yard box, hesitated and tried to chip the ball upfield. The ball ricocheted off Palma鈥檚 left leg and into the American goal 鈥 an error by Ochoa that brought back memories of Sean Johnson鈥檚 misplay that knocked out the U.S. in qualifying for 2012.

Among the top U.S. players not in qualifying were Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna, Josh Sargent, Sergi帽o Dest, Chris Richards and Antonee Robinson.

Atlanta refused to release defenders George Bello and Miles Robinson, and forward Brooks Lennon.

鈥淭he only solution I would say there is that if you can get the European players that are midseason,鈥 Kreis said, 鈥渢hen perhaps you鈥檙e in better shape, but we all know the difficulties of that, as well.鈥

Notes: Mexico鈥檚 Uriel Antuna scored his third goal of the tournament in the 57th minute after Carlos Rodr铆guez intercepted a pass from goalkeeper James Pantemis. Johan V谩squez added a goal in the 65th when his header rebounded off a post and then the chest of Canada鈥檚 Callum Montgomery.

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