Men's U23 Failure

Men’s U23 Team Has Failed to Qualify Again

The United States Men’s U23 team has failed to qualify for the Olympics for the third straight cycle. The last time that they qualified was in 2008, when a roster of mostly college players made it by finishing second at CONCACAF U-23 Championships. This year, with an all MLS squad and a coach who had never led a national team before, their fate was all but sealed from the start.

After failing to qualify for the last World Cup there were a lot of hopes placed on the back of the U23 men’s team. Qualification should have been completed last year but got delayed due to COCID-19.

We are in the golden age of young US players, so we should be able to field a very good team. Right?

This is not just about missing out on an opportunity to make history; it is also about missed opportunities to grow soccer across America. With so few spots available every four years, this failure puts into question whether or not there will be any future Olympic teams featuring American players in international competition.

From the get-go it seemed that the cards were stacked against us.

  • We went with an MLS team, but the MLS is in pre-season and the players are not game ready, or game fit.
  • The senior national team was playing meaningless friendlies in Europe.
  • Major teams in Europe were under no obligation to release players for U23 fixtures.
  • MLS did not release all players to play in these games.
  • An untested manager in Jason Kreis.

The Results

Qualifying

United States U23 1 – 0 Costa Rica U23 (March 18th)

Dominican Republic U23 0 – 4 United States U23 (March 21st)

Mexico U23 1 – 0 United States U23 (March 24th)

The US had a nervy and uninspired win over Costa Rica in their first game, with a first-half goal from Jesus Ferreria. Then they had a decent win over the Dominican Republic in their second group stage game. With goals from Djordje Mihailovic, Hassani Dotson (2), and Jackson Yueill.

The United States then lost 1 – 0 to Mexico in Guadalajara in their final group game. Both teams were both assured of going through to the next round, so it was a bit of a non-event. The United States finished Group B in second place and was scheduled to play Honduras. Easy, right? Not so fast, the Honduras team had qualified for the last three Olympics and were hungry to make it number four.

Semi-Final

Honduras U23 2 – 1 United States U23 (March 28th)

For me, the United States came out with no game plan and no intensity. Honduras was the better team and scored a goal from a free-kick in the dying seconds and the last touch of the half. Poor defending and goalie David Ochoa could have done better.

Mihailovic was subbed out at halftime after being fairly anonymous in the first half. The second half went from bad to worse very quickly when David Ochoa (goalie) tried to pass out of the back and had his pass blocked by Luis Palma, and it went straight into the goal.

The United States captain and San Jose Earthquakes midfield player Jackson Yueill scored a screamer from the edge of the box. The U.S. was back in the game. They dominated the rest of the game but did not create many clear-cut chances. Jonathan Lewis came close a couple of times but could not get his feet right.  I thought Tanner Tessmann had an impressive outing. The 19-year-old Dallas winger looked impressive and nearly turned the game in the favor of the U.S. 

That is it, the game was lost and we have to wait three more years to try again.

What Did We Learn?

Well, we learned that we are not good enough, that we can go into a tournament with a C or D team and expect A team results.  We need a coach that is a highly motivated coach that really knows these young players but to be fair if the coach is in a three-legged race and the competition are sprinters what hope do we have? No one seems to be on the same page.

What Might’ve  Been This Summer

We could have seen Christian Pulisic (22) teaming up with Gio Reyna (18, and Josh Sargent (20), Daryl Dike (20, and Brenden Aaronson (20),  Sebastian Soto (20), or Konrad de la Fuente (19) upfront.

In midfield Weston McKennie (22), with Tyler Adams (21), and Yunus Musah (18)

At the back, we could have had Sergiño Dest (20), with Chris Richards (20), and Reggie Cannon (22).

Imagine if even half of these players would have been able to play in the Olympics this summer. Hey it was good enough for Michael Jordan, and Scotty Pippen.