The United States U-23 National Team had an up-and-down tournament in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which concluded Tuesday with a 2-0 win over Canada to take home bronze medals and earn a trip to a regional playoff against Colombia with a berth in the 2016 Olympics on the line.
After rolling through the Group Stage with three easy wins, the U.S. stumbled in the semifinals against Honduras, forcing it into the third-place game against Canada. Those five matches provided valuable experience for Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil and defender Boyd Okwuonu.
“It was amazing. I’ve done a little bit of it before, but at the Olympic level, it was amazing. Definitely an experience to remember and learn from and grow from,” Okwuonu said.
Both RSL players made three starts, while appearing off the bench in the other two matches. Gil finished the tournament with two goals and two assists, providing a strong option in the midfield to complement forwards Jerome Kiesewetter and Jordan Morris. Meanwhile Okwuonu was a defensive presence at right back throughout the tournament.
Getting 230 minutes of international competition in high-stakes matches was valuable for Okwuonu.
“It’s just helping me grow as a player and I’m going to get better and better. Things like this are what’s going to help my career,” he said. “I’m just focused on developing and trying to make it on the national team level.”
Now, the duo will turn their international attention on helping the U.S. through the playoff against Colombia in March.
“We had our good moments and we had our bad moment against Honduras. Luckily we had the opportunity to play for third place and have another chance to get to Rio,” Gil said. “We’re still battling.”