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Sandy • Dreams of an appearance at next summer's Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro are dangling by a wispy thread for the U.S. men's national team.
Following its shocking 2-0 loss against Honduras in Saturday's CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinal at Rio Tinto Stadium, the U.S. faces Canada in a third-place game Tuesday evening just for the right to board a plane to Rio.
A win over Canada, which the U.S. beat 3-1 in its group stage opener on Oct. 1, would pit the Americans in a one-game playoff against CONMEBOL representative Colombia next March to determine the final entry in next summer's Olympic tournament.
The loss against Honduras showcased an inability to adapt to the physical, disruptive, counterattacking style most CONCACAF countries utilize come tournament time. The U.S. failed to generate much of an attack and was caught twice by one of the region's emerging talents in Honduran forward Alberth Elis, who notched both goals in the win over the Americans.
"It's not going to be easy [Tuesday]," said Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil.
Gil echoed the thoughts of U.S. assistant coach John Hackworth, who will be coaching the U.S. U-23s in the third-place match against Canada following the ejection of coach Andi Herzog Saturday against Honduras. The former Philadelphia Union coach noted the difficulty of defeating the same team twice in a tournament.
"That's what we have to do," Hackworth said Monday afternoon. "That's our resolve [Tuesday] is to come with our absolute best, put everything we have into it. If not, it's over for us."
Against the Canadians, the U.S. will face another methodical, blue-collar approach. Canada is second in Olympic qualifying with 48 fouls committed, two behind Honduras and two ahead of the U.S.
Mexico and Honduras already have their tickets to Rio. The Americans must win to avoid not qualifying for the third time in four Summer Games.
"You have to forget about [Saturday] and you have to focus on the now," Hackworth said. "This is an experienced group of players. We have good leaders on this team."
U.S. vs. Canada
P CONCACAF Olympic qualifying third-place match, at Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy
Kickoff • Tuesday, 5 p.m.
TV • NBC Universo
Radio • None
Notes • The U.S. outscored Canada, Cuba and Panama 13-2 in group stage play, but was shut out for the first time in the tournament in its 2-0 loss to Honduras on Saturday. … In order to qualify for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, the U.S. must beat Canada to advance to a one-game playoff against Colombia in March 2016. … U.S. coach Andi Herzog was ejected in the semifinal loss to Honduras and will serve a one-game suspension.
Mexico vs. Honduras
P CONCACAF Olympic qualifying final
Kickoff • Tuesday, 8 p.m. Mexico vs. Honduras
CONCACAF Olympic qualifying final
At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy
Kickoff » Tuesday, 8 p.m.
TV » NBC Universo
Radio » None
Notes » Former RSL center back Carlos Salcedo, now with Chivas de Guadalajara, anchors the Mexican back line … Houston Dynamo striker Cubo Torres scored the game-winner in the semifinal against Canada. … Torres has three goals in the tournament. … Honduran forward Alberth Elis leads the tournament with four goals, including two against in the 2-0 win over the U.S. Saturday afternoon. … Mexico are the defending Olympic champions and are riding a 10-game winning streak.