NASHVILLE, TN – Stunning!
The United States U-23 squad suffered a defeat in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, falling 2-0 to Canada on Saturday in front of 10,578 spectators at LP Field.
Doneil Henry and Lucas Cavallini scored for the victorious side, which now sits tied with El Salvador – 4-0 winners against Cuba in the night's first match – for first place in Group A. The Americans are third on three points, needing a victory against the Central American side on Monday to qualify for the semifinals. Vancouver Whitecaps FC youngster Russell Teibert also started Saturday's big win for Tony Fonseca's Canadian squad.
USA coach Caleb Porter made two changes to the line-up that defeated Cuba 6-0 on Thursday. Jorge Villafaña played left fullback, replacing Kofi Sarkodie. Zarek Valentin switched to the right side. Canadian-born Teal Bunbury was at the top of the American formation, taking over for Juan Agudelo. Before the match, the United States Soccer Federation announced the New York Red Bulls striker would miss the remainder of the tournament after tearing the meniscus in his left knee in the first match.
The USA controlled possession in the first half, but their opponents ran into the match and competed well. The Americans were unable to breakdown the tight Canadian defensive formation, while the Canucks found some space in the attack.
Freddy Adu had a chance in the 26th minute after making a long run, but Canadian goalkeeper Michal Misiewicz gobbled up his curling, left-footed effort as Bunbury bore down.
Ike Opara nearly scored an own-goal in the 38th minute, but his botched clearance dribbled inches wide of the left post.
Canada's Evan James had a glimpse of the goal in the 44th minute, but his shot from 20 yards out went straight at Bill Hamid. Former Whitecaps FC striker Randy Edwini-Bonsu's half-chance seconds later also found the same fate.
Porter, searching to inject some life into his side, brought on Joe Gyau for an ineffective Joe Corona at the start of the second half. Adu switched to the middle of the field, as the Hoffenheim midfielder moved to the right flank.
The move looked to immediately pay dividends, as Gyau drew a foul in the 48th minute. Opara put the resulting Adu free kick into the back of the net, but the linesman correctly ruled the centre back offside.
Henry struck two minutes after Terrence Boyd came on for Bunbury in the 56th minute. Former Whitecaps FC midfielder Philippe Davies sent an inswinging corner into the box. Hamid came out tentatively, and the Toronto FC defender headed it home.
The USA pressed to get back into the match, and had two of their best chances in the 65th minute. Villafaña beat his man down the left flank and rolled the ball across to a waiting Adu. Misiewicz palmed away his well-struck, one-time effort. On the ensuing corner, Opara's header went just wide of the post.
As the match wound down, a strange moment occured when Edwini-Bonsu was red carded by referee Jafeth Perea for something he either said or did on the sideline.
His absence will be a massive blow for the Canadians when they next face Cuba on Monday, 3:30 pm PT. The Americans take on El Salvador in a do-or-die match at 6 p.m. PT that same day.
Bill Hamid; Zarek Valentin, Ike Opara, Perry Kitchen, Jorge Villafaña; Jared Jeffrey (Amobi Okugo 76'), Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona (Joe Gyau, 46'); Freddy Adu, Teal Bunbury (Terrence Boyd 56'), Brek Shea
Substitutes not used: Sean Johnson, Kofi Sarkodie, Tony Taylor, Sheanon Williams, Michael Stephens
Michal Misiewicz; Andrés Fresenga (Matt Stinson 68'), Russell Teibert, Nana Attakora, Doneil Henry, Kyle Bekker, Samuel Piette, Babayele Sodade (Evan James 20'), Lucas Cavallini, Philippe Davies, Randy Edwini-Bonsu
Substitutes not used: Adam Janssen, Bryce Alderson, Shaun Saiko, Marcus Haber, Drew Beckie, Carl Haworth
El Salvador 4, Cuba 0
In the early game on Saturday afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee, the Salvadorans took top spot in Group A, by thumping Cuba, 4-0. The Salvadorans got two goals from Andres Flores, and one each from Lester Blanco and Richard Menjivar.