SANDY, Utah – The U.S. under-23 men’s soccer team lives to fight another day.
Three days after losing to Honduras in a game that would have sent the team to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, the Americans rebounded with a 2-0 win over Canada Tuesday in the third-place game of the CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship.
With the victory, the U.S. team advances to a playoff against Colombia for a spot in Rio. The playoff will consist of two games played in a home and away format in March 2016.
“We expected to come out and get a result in that game and it didn't happen for us,” U.S. forward Jordan Morris said. “We had to bounce back, come back and win this game today and we did.”
Marc Pelosi and Jerome Kiesewetter scored second-half goals to lift the Americans over Canada at Rio Tinto Stadium in suburban Salt Lake City.
Pelosi broke the scoreless tie in the 69th minute. He corralled the ball after it fell to his feet during a scramble off a corner kick and then unloaded a rocket from the top of the 18-yard box.
Kiesewetter made it 2-0 in the 84th minute when he curled a penalty kick past Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.
“We knew we didn't play our game against Honduras,” Pelosi said. “We knew if we just played how we always play against Canada, we were going to come out with a win and we did that. They didn’t have many chances. We dominated the game and we’re happy we’re still on the road to Rio.”
The U.S. team created plenty of scoring chances in the first half, outshooting Canada 13-2. Three of those shots were on goal. It controlled possession for much of the half but struggled to finish chances in the final third.
“We felt like we were the better team,” said U.S. assistant coach John Hackworth, who in charge of the squad in place of head coach Andy Herzog, who was suspended after getting a red card against Honduras. “We felt like we were playing better, and eventually we felt like we were going to break them down.”
Fortune turned in the team’s favor just before the first half ended. Canada had to play with only 10 players the entire second half after midfielder Giuliano Frano received a second yellow card before halftime. Frano was issued yellow cards in the 32nd and 44th minutes.
The advantage helped open things up for the U.S. team in short order. The Americans tallied nine shots on goal out of 15 total shots in the final 45 minutes. Canada, on the other hand, created just three total shots in 90 minutes.
Now the U.S. team is hoping it can carry positive momentum from the result into the matches against Colombia next March. Originally thought to be a one-game playoff in Brazil, the playoff will now be a home-and-away series. A spokesman for the U.S. team said CONCACAF, the governing body for North America, Central America and the Caribbean, told the teams of the new playoff format prior to Tuesday’s match.
“We do feel like we have enough to challenge Colombia in a home and away series,” Hackworth said. “While we feel a little disappointed we didn't accomplish goal No. 1, at least our dream is still alive to qualify Rio.”