US SoccerUS Soccer
Terrence Boyd

U.S. U-23 MNT Eliminated from Olympic Qualifying after Late El Salvador Equalizer

  • 95th-Minute Stoppage Time Goal Condemns USA to Third Place in Group A

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 26, 2012) – The U-23 Men’s National Team will miss out on the 2012 London Olympics after being eliminated from CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying in heartbreaking fashion following a 3-3 tie with El Salvador on Monday night at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.

A whirlwind game that saw the U.S. take an early lead, fall behind by a goal and then bravely fight back to regain the lead, ended in incredibly dramatic fashion when a goal in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time gave El Salvador the unlikely tie.

With only four points from three Group A games, the U.S. finished in third place and missed out on the opportunity to play in the all-important semifinals that will qualify two CONCACAF teams to the Olympics. This was the second time the U.S. has missed out on the Olympics since 1976, after having failed to qualify for the 2004 Games in Athens. (The U.S. qualified in 1980, but did not compete due to a boycott of the Moscow games.) 

“It’s a painful moment. The players are devastated. To put in as much as they put in that game, the amount of heart they put in, to play the way they played in that second half to come from behind and score two goals, to be seconds away from getting the No. 1 seed, it’s unimaginable,” said U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team head coach Caleb Porter. “I told them in the locker room is that this won’t define their careers. As low as this moment is for them and as painful as it is, they’ve got big days ahead – a lot of those guys that were out on that field. That’s the future of our country. It’s sad that I’m not going to get a chance to be in the trenches with those guys anymore. They did everything I asked. They made some mistakes that cost us the game. The guys have long careers ahead of them. I’m proud of those guys and I know they’re going to do great things in the future. I’m sorry for our fans, sorry for U.S. Soccer that we didn’t get the job done. But there’s nothing to be ashamed about.” (POST-GAME QUOTES)

The USA got the perfect start to its must-win game in Nashville, with forward Terrence Boyd putting the U-23s in front after just 59 seconds. Forward Brek Shea took the ball past his man on the end line before whipping a cross to the near post where Boyd finished superbly with his left foot. The big forward’s first touch of the game could not have been more precise, reaching behind him to hit a full volley into the roof of the net from six yards out.

Boyd was the danger man throughout the first half and in the 10th minute he nearly doubled the lead from another Shea cross. Just seconds later Boyd was through on goal after a mistake in the defense, but the El Salvador goalkeeper did well to come off his line and smother the chance.

The U.S. continued to have the better of the exchanges in the opening stanza, but El Salvador stunned the U-23s with two quick-fire goals in the 35th and 38th minutes. Isidro Gutierrez delivered an in-swinging corner into the box where Lester Blanco was first to the ball, heading past Bill Hamid at the near post. Minutes later El Salvador had the lead, with Andres Flores latching on to a far post pass form Jaime Alas to finish from eight yards out.

Shortly thereafter Hamid was substituted, having sustained an ankle injury in the 31st minute from which he was unable to recover. Sean Johnson was thrust into the game for his first action of the tournament, and first U-23 appearance since playing the second half in the USA’s 2-0 win against Mexico on Feb. 29, 2012, in Frisco, Texas.

The U.S. was back on the front foot after that blip, and nearly grabbed the tying goal before halftime. Forward Freddy Adu slid a right-footed shot just right of the goal in the 40th minute and tested Cuellar with a stinging left-footed curler moments later.

At halftime the USA remained down a goal, knowing two more would be required to have any shot at advancing to the semifinals.

The U.S. came out firing from the start of the second half, throwing numbers forward in search of scoring chances. In the 57th minute they nearly found a vital goal, with Adu turning his man on the edge of the box before forcing Cuellar into another good save.

Five minutes later, the USA pulled back the first goal. Johnson’s booming punt was flicked on superbly by Boyd, before Adu slotted a perfect return pass to the onrushing forward. Boyd did the rest, with a delicate finish over the goalkeeper from 12 yards out to make it 2-2 in the 65th minute.

The USA grabbed its third goal shortly thereafter, with midfielder Joe Corona heading home an Adu cross to the far post. The goal was Corona’s fourth of the tournament and looked like it would be the vital strike to send the USA into the semifinals of CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying.

The U.S. defended well as the final whistle approach, with Johnson making a series of impressive saves and the backline doing everything possible to clear its lines at each opportunity.

In the 79th minute, El Salvador’s Alexander Larin should have been shown a red card for a despicable punch to Terrence Boyd’s nose. The forward was down and bleeding, forced to leave the field and change his jersey while being cleaned up.

Even so it looked like the U.S. would hold on for the win until the final moment of the game, when El Salvador’s Alas curled a left-footed shot from 20 yards. The ball took a wicked short hop, and Johnson could not keep it out despite getting a big piece.

The goal set off rapturous celebrations for the El Salvador team while U.S. players were despondent on the pitch, with the final whistle blowing shortly thereafter to eliminate the USA from CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying and a chance to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.

-U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team Match Report-

Match: U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team vs. El Salvador
Date: March 26, 2012
Competition: CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying - Group A
Venue: LP Field; Nashville, Tenn.
Kickoff: 8 p.m. CT
Attendance: 7,889
Weather: 65 degrees, clear

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA                        1 2 3
SLV                         2 1 3

USA – Terrence Boyd (Brek Shea)        1st minute
SLV – Lester Blanco (Isidro Gutierrez)   35
SLV - Andres Flores (Jaime Alas)          37
USA - Terrence Boyd (Freddy Adu)       65
USA - Joe Corona (Freddy Adu)           68
SLV - Jaime Alas                                90+4

USA: 1-Bill Hamid (18-Sean Johnson, 39); 3-Kofi Sarkodie, 2-Ike Opara, 4-Perry Kitchen,13-Jorge Villafaña; 16-Amobi Okugo, 8-Mix Diskerud, 10-Joe Corona (20-Michael Stephens, 88); 7-Freddy Adu (capt.) (14-Joe Gyau, 90+3), 15-Terrence Boyd, 11-Brek Shea
Subs not used: 5-Zarek Valentin, 6-Jared Jeffrey, 12-Teal Bunbury, 17-Tony Taylor, 19-Sheanon Williams
Head coach: Caleb Porter

SLV: 18-Yimy Cuellar; 5-Alexander Mendoza, 4-Xavier Garcia (capt.), 2-Milton Molina, 13-Alexander Larin; 9-Isidro Gutierrez, 8-Diego Chavarria (19-Darwin Ceren, 73), 16-Richard Menjivar, 10-Jaime Alas; 20-Andres Flores, 17-Lester Blanco (14-Herbert Sosa, 87)
Subs not used: 1-Diego Cuellar, 3-Marlon Martinez, 6-Elman Rivas, 7-Dustin Corea, 12-Edwin Sanchez, 15-Jorge Moran
Head coach: Mauricio Alfaro

Stats Summary: USA / SLV
Shots 9 / 10
Shots on Goal 5 / 5
Saves 2 / 2
Corner Kicks 4 / 5
Fouls 15 / 14
Offsides 1 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
SLV – Diego Chavarria (caution)     5th minute
SLV – Lester Blanco (caution)          7
USA - Amobi Okugo (caution)         7
USA - Jorge Villafaña (caution)       72
USA - Freddy Adu (caution)            74
SLV - Alexander Mendoza (caution) 87
USA - Terrence Boyd (caution)       90

Referee: Roberto Garcia (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Juan Rangel (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Dion Neil (TRI)
Fourth Official: Hector Gonzalez (HON) Man of the Match: Terrence Boyd