It was a valiant effort for the U.S. U-23 National Team in the final Group Stage match in Concacaf Olympic Qualifying against Mexico on Wednesday. However, a late first-half goal proved to be the difference as Mexico emerged victorious 1-0 to finish atop Group A.
Four of the Real Salt Lake Academy’s five representatives started in the match with David Ochoa starting in goal and Aaron Herrera getting the nod at left back – a position he played in all 14 of his starts in his rookie season in 2018. Meanwhile, Sebastian Soto and Sebastian Saucedo both started in the U.S. attack, with Soto subbing off for Jesus Ferreira in the 61st minute and Saucedo coming off in the 71st minute for Benji Michel. Justen Glad was the only player not to start in the match as the defender was one of only two players to play all 90 minutes in the first two Group Stage matches and was carrying a yellow card – a second yellow card would mean suspension for the semifinal round.
For 44 minutes in the first half, the U.S. was up to the task against host Mexico at Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico. Then an untimely turnover led to the match’s only goal in the 45th minute.
Though the U.S. was outshot 9-1 in the first half, set piece opportunities had the chances to take the lead much more even than the stats showed. The difference came in the waning moments when Soto’s pass to the backline was picked off by Uriel Antuna. He carried it to the edge of the box and fired a low shot through the defense and beyond the reach of a diving Ochoa to send the match to halftime with Mexico toting a 1-0 lead.
While the U.S. looked to equalize and Mexico looked to extend the lead, neither team was able to get much in terms of chances to score during a chippy second half and the match ended 1-0.
The U.S. finished second in Group A at 2-1-0, allowing just one goal in the three matches and will now face either Honduras or Canada in the Semifinal Round on Sunday. A win in that match will send the U.S. to the final and qualify for the 2021 Olympics in Japan. A loss will mean a third straight cycle without reaching the Olympic Games. The Stars and Stripes will await their opponent, pending results from Thursday evening’s match between Canada and Honduras. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT with live television coverage on FS1.