Costly error ends USA’s Olympic hopes
(CNN) — The United States men’s Olympic soccer team had its hopes dashed Monday night after a dramatic late goal killed its chances of going to London.
A goal in the 95th minute, during stoppage time, pulled El Salvador to a 3-3 tie and knocked the U.S. team out of qualifying contention.
A victory would have put the U.S. for Saturday’s semifinals as winner of Group A in the CONCACAF region tournament.
It is the second time the U.S. failed to qualify for the Olympics since 1976, according to the U.S. soccer team website, having also missed out in 2004.
The last time the El Salvador men’s team made it to the Olympics was in 1968.
The Central American side finished top of the group on goal difference from Canada, which conceded a late equalizer in Monday’s 1-1 draw with Cuba and will now play the winner of the other pool on Saturday.
The U.S. team got out to a quick lead in Nashville when forward Terrence Boyd scored a goal inside the first minute, but El Salvador stormed back scoring two goals in the 35th and 38th minutes through Lester Blanco and Andres Flores.
The Americans regained the lead with quickfire goals in the 65th and 68th minutes from Boyd and Joe Corona, but could not hold on.
El Salvador’s Jaime Alas blasted a shot from some 25 yards out with about one minute left in the match, and the ball bounced off the hands of goalkeeper Sean Johnson before darting into the goal.
The El Salvador players celebrated while some U.S. players fell to the pitch, inconsolable.
“It’s a painful moment. The players are devastated. To put in as much as they put in that game, the amount of heart they put in, to play the way they played in that second half to come from behind and score two goals, to be seconds away from getting the No. 1 seed, it’s unimaginable,” said head coach Caleb Porter.
Mexico also qualified for Saturday’s semifinals in Kansas City after beating Honduras 3-0 and should qualify top of Group B by winning Tuesday’s final game against Panama.
Panama must win to stop second-placed Honduras going through — a win against Trinidad and Tobago will ensure the latter’s progress.
The two nations that reach Monday’s final will both go to London 2012.