GUADALAJARA, Mexico (February 10, 2004) - The U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team fell to Mexico 4-0 in front of a raucous sold-out crowd of 60,000 fans at Estadio Jalisco tonight in the semifinals of the 2004 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
With its first loss of the tournament, the USA has failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 1976. (The U.S. qualified in 1980, but did not compete due to a boycott of the Moscow games.)
The loss also snaps U.S. Soccer’s streak of qualifying for 19 consecutive FIFA outdoor world championships (World Cup, Women’s World Cup, Men’s & Women’s Olympics, World Youth (U-20) Championships, Under-19 Women’s World Championship and Under-17 World Championship). The streak began and ended with teams coached by Glenn “Mooch” Myernick, with his Under-17 team starting the streak in 1995. Brazil, whose men’s team was eliminated from the Olympics by Paraguay three weeks ago, held the previous longest streak.
Meanwhile, Mexico is now undefeated in 20 consecutive CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying games dating back to a 3-0 loss to the U.S. on April 26, 1992.
Before the U.S could get off its first of just two first-half shots, Mexico already held a 2-0 advantage with back-to-back goals in the 27th and 28th minutes. After Convey was dispossessed in the corner, Mexico scored their first goal on a counter attack. Captain Diego Martinez sent a cross in and found the head of Rafael Marquez Lugo who finished from point-blank range for a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, another U.S. giveaway in midfield would result in the second goal, as a Martinez cross meant for the head of defender Mario Perez drifted into the side netting as he and Nat Borchers battled in the air at the far post.
Down 2-0, the U.S. finally started to settle into the match and evened out possession, but the damage was done and the crowd carried Mexicon into halftime.
Kyle Beckerman came on for defender Chris Wingert in the second stanza as the U.S. shifted to a 3-5-2 formation, but the change could not deter the Mexico attack. Mexico went up 3-0 in the 55th minute as Marquez Lugo struck a shot that Countess saved, only to have the striker track his own rebound with his back to goal, then wheel around and slot a difficult full volley shot inside the post and past an unsuspecting Countess.
The USA's comeback effort was dealt another blow in the 74th minute when Nat Borchers was sent off for a second yellow card, leaving the team with 10 men for the final 15 minutes.
A stoppage time goal added insult to injury, as Martinez beat the offside trap one last time and freed late sub Ismael Iniguez, where he finished past a helpless Countess.
The U.S. was outshot 18-4 and only forced goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona to make one save, coming in the 80th minute on a snap header from second-half sub Alecko Eskandarian.
The U.S. will now face Honduras in the Third Place match of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Thursday at Estadio Jalisco at 5:30 p.m. (local/CT) live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. Honduras fell to Costa Rica, who qualified for their first Olympics since 1984 and third-time ever with a 2-0 win in the night's first match at Estadio Jalisco.
--U.S. U-23 MNT GAME REPORT--
Participants: United States vs. Mexico
Competition: Final CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying – Semi-Final #2
Venue: Estadio Jalisco – Guadalajara, Mexico
Date: February 10, 2004 – 8 p.m. local / CT
Weather: 70 degrees; mild, clear
Attendance: 60,000 (sellout)
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
Mexico 2 2 4
MEX – Rafael Marquez Lugo (Diego Martinez) 27th minute.
MEX – Diego Martinez (unassisted) 28.
MEX – Rafael Marquez Lugo (unassisted) 55.
MEX – Ismael Iniguez (Diego Martinez) 92+.
USA (4-4-2): 1-D.J. Countess; 16-Chris Wingert (5-Kyle Beckerman, 46), 6-Nat Borchers, 14-Chad Marshall, 3-Ricky Lewis; 8-Logan Pause, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 9-Brad Davis (17-Eddie Gaven, 76), 15-Bobby Convey; 10-Landon Donovan ©, 20-Ed Johnson (11-Alecko Eskandarian, 63).
Subs Not Used: 18-Doug Warren; 4-David Stokes, 12-Brian Carroll, 19-David Testo.
Head Coach: Glenn “Mooch” Myernick.
MEX (3-5-2): 1-José De Jesús Corona; 4-Aarón Galindo, 14-Francisco Rodríguez, 6-Ismael Rodríguez; 3-Mario Pérez, 5-Gerardo Espinoza, 8-Diego Martínez ©; 15-Sergio Ponce, 23-Luis Ernesto Pérez (17-Luis Alonso Sandoval, 78), 10-Juan Pablo García (7-Gonzalo Pineda, 67); 11-Rafael Márquez Lugo (18-Ismael Iniguez, 83).
Subs Not Used: 12-Cirilo Salcedo; 9-Juan Carlos Cacho, 19-Jaime Duran, 20-Hugo Sanchez Guerrero, 21-Rodolfo Espinoza.
Head Coach: Ricardo Lavolpe.
Statistical Summary: USA MEX
Shots 4 18
Saves 7 1
Corner Kicks 2 8
Fouls 10 14
Offside 0 4
MEX – Luis Ernesto Perez (caution) 3rd minute.
USA – Chris Wingert (caution) 31.
USA – Nat Borchers (caution) 35.
USA – Nat Borchers (caution) 74.
Referee: Neal Brizan (TRI)
Assistant Referee #1: Hector Vergara (CAN)
Assistant Referee #2: Reynaldo Salinas (HON)
Fourth Official: Rodolfo Sibrian (SLV)
Chevrolet Man of the Match: D.J. Countess
-- QUOTE SHEET --
"I'd like to give Mexico credit for their performance tonight. As for us, obviously our weakness throughout the tournament has been conceding goals. This is the third game in which we gave up three goals, and of course we gave up the fourth one late in the game. You just can't play soccer at the international level and concede goals like we have."
On how much the crowd played in the result:
"I think the fans here in Mexico are terrific; I think their patriotism and support of their team is terrific. But unless I missed something, not one of them came down on the field and kicked the ball. We were beaten by a better football team tonight, not by the fans."
On the difficulty in handling Mexico's all-out attack:
"We were disappointed in our ability to defend. Any team's defending starts with the quality of their one-on-one defending, and there were just too many times tonight when our defenders didn't do a good enough job of slowing the attack down, making a player on Mexico play a negative pass and giving themselves more of a chance to get numbers across the back."
On the disappointment of not qualifying for the Olympics for the first time in over 25 years:
"It's very disappointing. I can't speak about other (past Olympic) teams; I can only speak about this one. We knew it was going to be very difficult here in Mexico. I'm proud of my team to have gotten to this point, but the dreams of our team, the dreams of our players of going to the Olympics are now something in the past. I'm sure it will hurt even more tomorrow than it does right now. But my team doesn't have anything to be ashamed of."
On if he has second thoughts about having met Mexico in the semi's:
"Well, I think the only way we could have avoided Mexico was to lose the game against Honduras on purpose, and we don't know how to play like that. So that part doesn't frustrate me at all. Yes, I'm disappointed that we lost the game, but I'm not frustrated at all that we beat Honduras to face Mexico."
On how he thinks Mexico will fare at Athens 2004:
"I think the Olympics (soccer competition) in Athens is going to be wide open. Obviously, Brazil has been eliminated, the Czech Republic has been eliminated, Spain has been eliminated, so I think the tournament is going to be very wide open. I think anybody can win it, and Mexico has as good a chance as anybody."
U.S. U-23 MNT goalkeeper D.J. Countess
On tonight's result:
"Plain and simple, they were a better team than us tonight. They outworked us, they finished their chances very well. They had a couple of great opportunities and they capitalized on them. Tonight just wasn't good enough defensively. I think throughout this tournament we gave up way too many goals, and I thought sooner or later it's going to catch up to us, and tonight it did. Mexico is a great side, they deserved to win tonight. They beat us fair and square."
U.S. U-23 MNT midfielder Bobby Convey
On how the crowd was a factor:
"It's a tough thing to play Mexico in front of all those people, with their home crowd. They're extremely energetic about the whole thing. I think they completely outplayed us. Once they scored, they got more and more momentum, and that was a tough thing to overcome."
U.S. U-23 MNT forward Landon Donovan
On the result and the disappointment of missing out on what could have been his second Olympics by the age of 22:
"You have to give Mexico credit. I don't think we lost the game, I think they came and won it. It's kinda like it didn't happen; it's weird. It hasn't really set in yet. It just sucks."
On if the U.S. felt the game was over by halftime:
"Really, in the first half, there were two plays that they scored on that ended the game. I thought we were okay (in the first 20 minutes). We had some decent opportunities--nothing great--but we were keeping the ball well, and then in like a five-minute period, they had two sequences where they scored, and from there they got more confidence and that was it."