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Sandy • Once Jerome Kiesewetter connected with the ball, bending the penalty kick into the top right corner of the net, Emerson Hyndman let out a sigh of relief. He calmly pumped his fist, knowing full well the road to Rio was suddenly off its slight detour.
Luis Gil also pumped his fist, jogging to celebrate with Kiesewetter. The Real Salt Lake midfielder like Hyndman collected in his celebration of the goal that kept afloat the U.S. men's national team's intention of a berth in next summer's Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
After a 2-0 loss against Honduras in Saturday's CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinals, the Americans defeated Canada 2-0 on Tuesday in the third-place match. The victory sealed a spot in a home-and-away playoff series against South American representative Colombia in March.
"The Olympics are everything to Americans," said coach John Hackworth, who coached the match as head coach Andi Herzog served a one-game suspension following his ejection against Honduras. "Being able to keep this dream alive and hopefully qualify in March is very important to our national team program and to this group of players."
The U.S. defeated Canada 3-1 in its group stage opener Oct. 1. And like that opener in Kansas City, Kan., the Canadians played defense. They parked two banks of four defenders behind the ball for most of the match as the U.S. searched for ways to break them down with an early goal.
Chances came and went. Passes rolled out of bounds. Shots sailed high or wide.
After Canadian defender Giuliano Frano was red-carded in the 44th minute for a second yellow card caution, the U.S. played with a man-advantage.
In the 68th minute, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Marc Pelosi broke the deadlock. A cleared corner kick stopped at Pelosi, who took a slight touch and let loose a shot through a cluster of players. It zipped into the back of the net, deflecting off midfielder Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare.
"Kind of relieved," Pelosi said. "We knew once we scored that first one, we knew it was going to be a lot easier to score the second one."
Fifteen minutes later, Hyndman slipped a pass by between three defenders to Kiesewetter. The U.S. forward was taken out by goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau earning a penalty, which he converted.
Facing Colombia in a home-and-away series will be a formidable final test for the U.S.
"I think we'll pull it out in March," striker Jordan Morris said. Confident, but understanding the significance of what lies ahead. "It's going to be the game of our lives," he added.
U.S. 2, Canada 0
R Marc Pelosi breaks the deadlock in the 68th minute with his shot from outside the box.
• Jerome Kiesewetter doubles the lead in the 84th minute with a penalty kick.
• The U.S. faces Colombia in a home-and-away playoff.
Mexico 2, Honduras 0 • Victor Guzman scored in the second half and Mexico beat Honduras 2-0 in the tournament final at Rio Tinto Stadium. The teams already clinched spots in the Olympics with victories in the semifinals Saturday.