It was a mixed day for USMNT fans Sunday. Then again every day pretty much is. The afternoon saw the full squad win their first game in Europe against a European team in five years, beating Northern Ireland 2-1. Yeah, it was Northern Ireland. Yeah, it was Northern Ireland’s B-team. Still, Christian Pulisic ran the show as the fulcrum and captain of the team. Antonee Robinson had a dominant game on the left wing. Daryl Dike looked sprightly in his national team debut. It was better than nothing.
But in the evening, the stripped-down U-23 team failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, losing to Honduras 2-1 on one of the dumbest goals possible:
The U.S. is always up against it in this qualifying tournament. European teams are not forced to release players for it, meaning the squad is made up of MLS players who have been out of season for months. They’ve barely started preseason with their clubs.
That’s not to absolve them. Head coach Jason Kreis made some odd choices that left the squads short on attacking talent and long on worker bees. The U.S. was ponderous, at times onerous, when it had the ball throughout the tournament. It was simply soporific in the first half against Honduras, and didn’t spring into life until down 2-0. Kreis’ desire to play with a false-nine striker with no other forwards or midfielders getting ahead of him left the U.S. toothless. It doesn’t speak too well of the depth of the younger side of the U.S. set-up that the B U-23 team once again couldn’t get the job done.
It’s the third straight Olympics the U.S. has missed out on, and really would be a nice prep to international tournament soccer for younger players. But this is U.S. Soccer, and there’s nothing it can’t fuck up.