“That Was Painful”: One Man’s Running Diary of the Nightmare in Nashville

The U.S. U-23 team lost to tied El Salvador 3-3 in Nashville last night, a result that eliminated them from contention for the 2012 London Summer Games and represents a colossal failure for a team loaded with talent and (allegedly) rising stars.

The manner in which it came—on a glaring, Robert Green–like goalkeeper error in stoppage time—made the loss that much more difficult to take.

Forget that the referee and the linesmen missed a second-half punch by El Salvador’s Alexander Lardin that bloodied the nose of U.S. striker Terrence Boyd (in the El Salvador penalty area, no less), and forget that the crucial tying goal came in the fifth minute of stoppage time when only four minutes had been posted—this result was on the Americans.

They did battle back impressively from a 2-1 deficit, but their defense was terrible, they lost their poise at key moments, and their goalkeeping was simply awful.

The failure to qualify for the Olympics (for the third time since 1976) is bad enough, but when you consider that NBC—the Olympic broadcaster—launched a new TV deal with MLS this season, and a team stocked with 14 MLSers just failed to beat Canada and El Salvador in succession and will not be appearing in the Games on NBC this summer, it becomes that much worse.

We’ll put up some highlights in the next post, but before then, here is a series of emails we received during the match from Our Man at the Valley, who was watching, and cringing, from a remote location in the Rocky Mountains (kickoff was just past 9:00 pm ET):

9:28 p.m. ET:

1.  Alas is a great name for a misfiring striker. [Remember that name—Ed.]

2.  Nice finish on the goal. [Terrence Boyd from Brek Shea, in the second minute.—Ed.]

3.  Very helpful result with Cuba. [Incredibly, Cuba, which lost to the U.S. and El Salvador by a combined score of 10-0, has tied Canada, meaning the U.S. can win the group with a victory in this game, and El Salvador can do the same with a win or a tie. Group winner likely avoids Mexico in semis.—Ed.]

4.  This game is unlikely to end with 22 players on the field.

9:46 p.m. ET:

5.  We have a really slow left back. [That’s Chivas USA’s Jorge Villafana, who made MLS via a reality TV series. Really.—Ed.]

6.  And a right back with no touch. [Houston Dynamo reserve Kofi Sarkodie.—Ed.]

7.  Announcer is blaming Hamid for equalizer but I don’t think it was his fault. [Defenders. Again. Even though they’ve got several inches in height on opponents, they’re giving up headed goals on a corner.—Ed.]

9:50 p.m. ET:

8.  Caleb Porter should have made that substitution 4 minutes ago. [GK Sean Johnson on for the injured Bill Hamid, after El Salvador scores soft goal to go up 2-1.—Ed.]

10:05 p.m.

9.  Freddy needs a right foot.

10.  If El Salvador sit back like they did in the last 5 minutes of the half we have a slight chance.

11.  Except for that whole counterattacking thing.

12.  Porter should bring Diskerud on. [Ha!—Ed.]

10:28 p.m.:

13.  Color commentator—Alan someone [Hopkins? We have the Mun2 feed.—Ed.]—just suggested 4-4-2 rather than 4-3-3 because we are losing midfield. I agree.

14. Glen Davis must have an El Salvadoran girlfriend.

15.  I am taking Bill Hamid out of my MLS fantasy team. May replace him with Jimmy Cuellar.

10:35 p.m.:

16.  Boyd and Adu are the class of this team.

[Goals by Boyd and Joe Corona  put the U.S. back up 3-2.—Ed.]

17.  Really, Adu is the best player on the field. Good thing they allow overage players in this tournament. [Ouch. In U.S. defense, there are four or five other players—U23 players—who would be here if available. Altidore, Gatt, Morales, Chandler….—Ed.]

10:43 p.m.:

18.  If we sit back we’re dead; if we attack we’re in trouble. Should go to 4-4-2 now.

10:59 p.m.:

19.  Shea has looked better over the past 20 minutes. Very poised.

20.  Michael Stephens is on.  He’s on my MLS [fantasy] team! [OMATV is more of an EPL fan than, MLS. But he’s warming up to the domestic league.—Ed.]

11:02 p.m.:

21.  Wow that was painful.

[This email arrived seconds after a speculative 25-yard shot from—yes—Jaime Alas beat U.S. keeper Johnson in the waning moments of the game to tie the score at 3 and eliminate the Americans from the 2012 Olympics. Alas.—Ed.]

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