The U.S. U-23 team must beat their counterparts from El Salvador tonight in Nashville (9:00 ET, Universal Sports, Mun2, CONCACAF TV) to advance to the semifinals of the Olympic qualifying tournament.
Anything short of a victory and their Olympic dream almost certainly turns to dust (Canada would have to lose to Cuba for the U.S. to advance in that scenario—an extremely unlikely outcome).
If they do win, they stay alive for another round to most likely face Mexico with an Olympic berth on the line.
But first they must defeat El Salvador. Will coach Caleb Porter—who admitted to being surprised and troubled by Canada’s defensive 4-3-2-1 formation in Saturday’s loss—make significant changes to his lineup?
Captain Freddy Adu put some of the blame for Saturday’s upset on fatigue, and since the El Salvador match will be their third game in five days, you’d expect to see some new faces out there tonight.
We’d love to see what Terrence Boyd—or “Terrence Body,” as the commentator on the CONCACAF feed called him—could do with a start.
The same goes for speedy winger Joe Gyau (top) who has added a spark in two cameos already. A midfield featuring Gyau, Joe Benny Corona, and Mix Diskerud should be able to outgun El Salvador—comfortably.
What about at the back? Goalkeeper Bill Hamid and center backs Perry Kitchen and Ike Opara all looked shaky against Canada. Will they bounce back, or will Porter try other options in some of those spots?
Then there’s the psychological element heading into this all-or-nothing encounter. Porter said the team was rattled by Canada’s tactics on Saturday—and they looked it. Their coach seemed unsettled at being outmaneuvered too.
Some of the players on this team were members of the U-20 team that failed to qualify for the last youth World Cup with a loss on the final day of qualifying. How will they come out for this one? How will they react if something goes wrong early?
We’ll find out tonight.