Mateo Vasquez ’21
In the heat of everything going on in the sports world, many forget that some of the most important competitions are currently occurring in order for athletes to qualify for the upcoming Olympics. The U.S. men’s soccer team unfortunately failed to win their match against Honduras on Sunday, Mar. 28. The program has not been able to qualify for the Olympics since 2008, and they will have to wait another three years for another shot. This is the second time that the team has been knocked out of the tournament, and, moving forward, there is a lot of discussion of what could be done to prevent this from occurring again.
For most of the game the teams were tied up and at each other’s throats trying to dominate the other for ball control. There was a lot of back and forth action on the field, but neither team was truly demonstrating control over the other. In the end, U.S. goalkeeper David Ochoa made a pass that landed right at the foot of the Honduran striker Luis Palma, who executed the shot on the open net.
Ochoa had been consistent throughout the entire tournament, even keeping the team in the game during some difficult moments. However, when it came down to the final hour, there was a lack of communication and a failure to execute on the passes which resulted in Ochoa putting himself in a very awkward position. Throughout the rest of the half, the team attempted to make a comeback and rally from the mistake. However, Honduras saw their opportunity to advance in the tournament and focused almost the entire second half on a strictly defensive game. Losing momentum as the half continued on, their hopes of making the Olympics began to fade.
While the slip up did cost them the game, the program as a whole has improved and done better than the last round of Olympic qualifiers. In general the pool of athletes that the team can now pull from are much better than in years past. The larger pool and age cut off is in many ways a double edged sword. There are a lot of players that are more developed in the clubs that are not eligible for the Olympics because of the age cut off, and in turn the candidates that are playing are much younger and lack certain experience that comes with just playing at a high level of intensity through years of experience.
To say the least, the young MLS players that were on the field did a great job in comparison to years past and only showed that there is room for improvement.
In years to come, the team will no doubt shift focus to ensuring the team has the experience to match the competition.
While this is a missed opportunity for the team, the potential is there, and if anything, the experience is a motivating one as they continue on and build their next team at a shot at the Olympics in the future. We look forward to covering their success in the future.