After last week’s 1-1 draw in Barranquilla, the United States’ U-23 team is in a good position to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics tonight in Frisco, Texas.
A win over Colombia, or even a 0-0 draw, will be enough to see the Americans qualify for the first time since 2008 in Beijing.
How to watch: ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. ET
Man in the middle: Uzbek Ravshan Irmatov has been named Asia’s best referee on five different occasions
Last time out: Queretaro’s Luis Gil put the U.S. ahead in the fifth minute and the Americans soaked up a tremendous amount of Colombian pressure before conceding a penalty in the 67th minute. Juan Quintero slipped the penalty under a sprawling Cody Cropper to level the match, and that was the last of the scoring.
Injury watch: Ethan Horvath left Friday’s match after receiving a blow to the head, but the Molde keeper should be available for today’s match. On the other side, Guillermo Celis, who started for the Colombian senior national team last week, was called in to replace the injured Rafael Santos Borre.
They said it, part one: “Today’s game was a different style of play for us because Colombia are different from the CONCACAF sides that we’ve faced in the past. In the second half, we were missing a lot of energy because sometimes we were giving away the ball too easily and that happens, you overcompensate. But next week we will have more possession, I assure you.” — U.S. U-23 coach Andi Herzog, after last week’s draw
They said it, part two: “We need a goal to get into the fight, but we’re not going to get obsessed with the idea.” — Colombia U-23 coach Carlos Restrepo
Analysis: On paper before this tie began, Colombia were heavy favorites to advance. But, having picked up a road goal in Barranquilla last week, the United States has put itself in good position to reach Brazil this summer.
Herzog’s quote is important, though, because the Americans rode their luck for long stretches in the first match with Colombia dominating possession. Ninety more minutes like that wouldn’t bode well for the red, white and blue.
What’s certain is that a few things will be different tonight. For starters, it won’t be 90 degrees with high humidity tonight in Texas, and the United States should have the same sort of home field edge that the Colombians enjoyed last week.
The other thing that must change is Herzog’s philosophy. I don’t blame him for bunkering in down in South America, but the Americans need to keep the ball better and create a few chances against a Colombian side that must score in this match.
If Restrepo’s side hit the 70 percent mark in possession again, the odds of Colombia reaching the Olympics go way, way up.
Prediction: I sold the Americans short in my last prediction, but I’m not making the same mistake this time. I’ll take the home side for a 2-1 win.