The United States have been left needing a victory over either Canada or Honduras on Sunday to seal their spot in this summer’s Olympic Games, after falling to a 1-0 loss to Mexico on Wednesday.
Both teams had secured advancement from their qualification group and they met on Wednesday knowing the winner would seal top spot and secure a more-favourable semi-final draw.
With so much on the line, it was Mexico who took the plaudits through a goal from Chivas winger Uriel Antuna, who capitalised on a sloppy pass from Norwich City forward Sebastian Soto to seal the victory and leave the US forced to settle for second place.
It means the US must now secure a win over the winner of the other qualification group, which is expected to be Honduras – unless Canada can pick up a victory when those two sides meet on Thursday.
“Ultimately difficult to lose the game on an individual error,” manager Jason Kreis said after the game (via The Guardian). “The most important game is coming, so we need to move forward very quickly and prepare ourselves for that.
“Ultimately the goal came from their press: a forward that dropped down and instead of controlling the ball and taking two touches. He had all kinds of time. He tried to play a first-time pass and got intercepted.”
The US are keen to re-establish themselves in global football. They failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics before facing the humiliation of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Olympic rules state that teams must largely be made up of players under the age of 23, but each country can name three players over that age limit. However, clubs are not obliged to release their players as the tournament will run over pre-season and could even see elite players miss the start of their domestic campaign.
That’s the boat in which Chelsea‘s Christian Pulisic finds himself. The winger has admitted he hopes to take part this summer, but the final decision will rest with his club.
“The Olympics is of course a massive honour to play in, and to represent your country in an Olympics would be amazing,” Pulisic said (via Goal). “I am fully supporting the guys in qualifying now. It is something I’ve thought about and that I’ve wanted to play in.
“Obviously I can’t control exactly what goes on and what is best for me at the time and the team at the time, I can’t say, but it is something that I would like to play in.”