The U.S. U-23 National Team’s road to Rio for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil took a dramatic detour on Saturday. After steamrolling through the Group Stage of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament with three straight victories, the U.S. struggled to find any cohesion and lost 2-0 to Honduras in the Semifinal Round at Rio Tinto Stadium. The result sends Honduras through to the tournament final, but also to the 2016 Olympics with one of two guaranteed bids from the CONCACAF region.
The U.S. is still alive, but will need to win on Tuesday against Canada – 2-0 losers to Mexico in the other semifinal match on Saturday – with the winner of that third-place match facing Colombia in a winner-take-all match in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in March of 2016.
In a disjointed first half, Honduras would put the U.S. at a deficit for the first time in the tournament.
Against the run of play, Honduras opened scoring in the 23rd minute when Alberth Elis took a pass in the box and beat Ethan Horvath inside the far post. Kevin Alvarez crossed the ball from the right side to Elis in the middle of the box. He turned, cut back inside and shot back across the goal for the 1-0 advantage.
The U.S. looked to equalize, but had trouble cracking the defensive shape of Hondruas in the first half and it concluded with the 1-0 score line.
The U.S. nearly equalized on a corner kick from Luis Gil in the 64th minute. Gil found the head of Cameron Carter-Vickers in the middle of the box, but Luis Lopez made a stunning save, swiping the ball away just before it crossed into the goal and Honduras kept the lead.
That missed opportunity would prove costly, as Honduras doubled its lead in the 77th minute on a second goal from Elis. Honduras again pressed up the right side and cut the ball back to Ellis at the near post for a shot inside the far post for a 2-0.
In a match that saw fireworks from the coaches throughout the afternoon, both coaches were ejected by referee Jafeth Perea from Panama shortly after the second goal. Jerome Kiesewetter was fouled in the attack, but shown a yellow card for dissent, causing U.S. Head Coach Andi Herzog to storm into the opposing technical area to confront the referee. When Honduras Head coach Carlos Tabora took exception, both were ejected from the match.
Moments later, the U.S. had another promising attack lead to a chance to cut the lead in half. A quick free kick taken from the corner eventually found its way through the box to Jordan Morris for a tap-in goal, but the linesman raised his flag for offside and the score would finish at 2-0.
Gil started the match and played 74 minutes, while RSL defender Boyd Okwuonu also earned the start, but was taken out at halftime.
In the other semifinal match, Mexico got out to an early lead through Erick Torres and never looked back dominating most of the match despite a final score line of just 2-0.
U.S. 0-2 HONDURAS
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2015
CONCACAF OLYMPIC QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT
RIO TINTO STADIUM
Goals by Period 1 2 F
U.S. 0 0 0
Honduras 1 1 2
HON – Alberth Elis (Kevin Alvarez) 23’
HON – Alberth Elis 77’
US – Matt Polster (Yellow; Foul) 13’
US – Boyd Okwuonu (Yellow; Foul) 27’
HON – Alberth Ellis (Yellow; Foul) 30’
US – Fatai Alashe (Yellow; Foul) 76’
US – Jerome Keiswetter (Yellow; Dissent) 79’
US – Wil Trapp (Yellow; Foul) 86’
U.S. (4-4-2): Ethan Horvath; Boyd Okwuonu (Gboly Ariyibi 46’), Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Dillon Serna; Wil Trapp, Matt Polster, Emerson Hyndman (Fatai Alashe 64’), Luis Gil (Alonso Hernandez 74’); Jordan Morris, Jerome Kieswetter.
Substitutes not used: Zack Steffen, Charlie Horton, Will Packwood, Marc Pelosi, Gedion Zelalem, Maki Tall.
Honduras (4-3-3): Luis Lopez; Kevin Alvarez, Marcelo Pereira, Jhonatan Paz, Elder Torres; Bryan Acosta, Rodolfo Espinal, Jhow Benavidez (Joshua Nieto 74’), Oscar Salas (Kevin Lopez 68’); Alberth Elis (Allan Banegas 87’), Antony Lozano.
Substitutes not used: Roberto Lopez, Harold Fonseca, Kilfox Bernardez, Jose Barralaga, Darwin Espinal.
Referee: Jafeth Parea
Assistant Referees: Ronald Bruna, Ronaldo de la Cruz
Fourth Official: Juan Carlos Guerra
Weather: Sunny and 79