The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team looks to rebound from Saturday’s stunning loss to Canada when it wraps up Group A play in 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying against El Salvador at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. tonight (9 p.m. ET, broadcast live on Universal Sports, mun2 and CONCACAF.com).
The USA is in third place in the group stage following a 2-0 loss to Canada who top Group A alongside El Salvador with four points apiece, and needs a victory to be assured of advancing to the tournament’s knockout stages.
Even if they reach the semifinals as Group A runners-up, the pressure on the U.S. U-23s will not let up one iota. Rivals Mexico have rolled up two dominant victories in Group B, making them the United States’ likely semifinal opponents should the teams finish first and second in their respective groups.
Canada is in a strong position to advance heading into Monday’s game against Group A’s last-place Cuba team, needing a win or a draw to guarantee a semifinal spot. The USA also could advance to the semifinals with a draw against El Salvador if Canada loses against Cuba. In that scenario, the U.S. and Canada would be tied on points, but the USA holds the advantage in goal differential.
Canada’s U-23 team earned its first win in nearly 20 years against the U.S. The last time USA loss to Canada came May 17, 1992, a 2-1 defeat in the final game of qualifying for the 1992 Olympics after the U.S. already had sealed its place for Barcelona.
The top two teams from Group A and B advance to the semifinals in Kansas City, which will be played on March 31 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. The semifinal winners will join the 16-team field for the 2012 London Olympics.
2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying: Group A results/fixtures
Thursday, March 22
Canada 0, El Salvador 0
USA 6, Cuba 0
Saturday, March 24
El Salvador 4, Cuba 0
Canada 2, USA 0
Monday, March 26
Canada vs. Cuba, 5:30 p.m. ET (Universal Sports Network/mun2/CONCACAF.com)
USA vs. El Salvador , 8 p.m. ET (Universal Sports Network/mun2/CONCACAF.com)
Final Stage (Kansas City, Kan.; LIVESTRONG Sporting Park)
Saturday, March 31
Semifinal: Group B Winner vs. Group A Runner-Up*^, 6 p.m. ET (Telemundo/CONCACAF.com)
Semifinal: Group A Winner vs. Group B Runner-Up*^, 9 p.m. ET; (NBC Sports Network**/Telemundo/CONCACAF.com)
Monday, April 2
Championship Game, 8 p.m. ET (Universal Sports Network/Telemundo/CONCACAF.com)
*Note: Should USA finish as Group A runner-up, semifinal games will switch start times
^Semifinal winners advance to 2012 Olympic Games in London
**NBC Sports Network televising semifinal if USA reaches that stage
U.S. U-23 ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Bill Hamid (D.C. United; Annandale, Va.), 18-Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire; Lilburn, Ga.)
DEFENDERS (6): 2-Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes; Durham, N.C.), 3-Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo; Huber Heights, Ohio), 4-Perry Kitchen (D.C. United; Indianapolis, Ind.), 5-Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact; Lancaster, Pa.), 13-Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA; Anaheim, Calif.), 19-Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union; Boston, Mass.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 6-Jared Jeffrey (Mainz; Richardson, Texas), 7-Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union; Potomac, Md.), 8-Mix Diskerud (Gent; Oslo, Norway), 10-Joe Corona (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), 16-Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union; Sacramento, Calif.), 20-Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy; Naperville, Ill.)
FORWARDS (5): 11-Brek Shea (FC Dallas; Bryan, Texas), 12-Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City; Prior Lake, Minn.), 14-Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim; Silver Spring, Md.), 15-Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund; Berlin, Germany), 17-Tony Taylor (Estoril Praia; Jacksonville, Fla.)
EL SALVADOR U-23 ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Diego Cuellar (Atlético Marte), 18-Yimy Cuellar (Alianza FC)
DEFENDERS (4): 2-Milton Molina (Metapán), 4-Xavier García (Firpo), 5-Alexander Mendoza (UES), 13-Alexander Larin (Atlético Marte)
MIDFIELDERS (10): 3-Marlon Martínez (Firpo), 6-Elman Rivas (Alianza), 8-Diego Chavarría (Once Municipal), 10-Jaime Alas (Firpo), 12-Edwin Sánchez (Metapán), 14-Herbert Sosa (Alianza FC), 15-Jorge Morán (Metapán), 16-Richard Menjívar (Cal State Bakersfield), 19-Darwin Cerén (Juventud Independiente), 20-Andrés Flores (Viborg)
FORWARDS (4): 7-Dustin Corea (Blokhus FC), 9-Isidro Gutiérrez (Águila), 11-Jonathan Águila (Águila), 17-Léster Blanco (Metapán)
Head Coach: Mauricio Alfaro