All to play for in tonight’s Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Championship semifinals. The United States men’s U-23 national team takes on Honduras, with the winner qualifying for the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer.
While it hasn’t been completely smooth sailing for the US thus far, they’ve managed to squeeze out results for the most part, beating Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic before falling to Mexico in the final group stage match. They’ll have to be at their best tonight against a high-energy Honduras side that is notoriously difficult to play against.
In lieu of our more traditional preview, here are a few things to watch in tonight’s contest.
Olympic spot on the line
While there is still a trophy to play for in the short term, the ultimate goal is the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (which will actually happen in 2021). The winners of the United States versus Honduras and Mexico versus Canada will face off in the final on Tuesday, and while it’s a shot at silverware, that match is very much secondary.
While their respective rankings (USA – 22, Honduras – 64) and traditional spots in the Concacaf pecking order might suggest tonight’s match is a foregone conclusion, that’s far from the case. Honduras has represented Concacaf at the last three World Cups, and knocked the US out of Olympic qualifying back in 2016. They’ve excelled in Olympic qualifying in recent years, making four of the last five Olympic games, including the last three consecutive editions.
Honduras haven’t set the tournament on fire, winning just one of their group matches, but they’re historically difficult to play against. With an energetic midfield and a focus on being hard to break down, they could make chance creation a real headache. This match will likely end up feeling a lot like the Yanks’ 1-0 win over Costa Rica: nervy.
While not a power house, Honduras are consistent. On paper, the US are the favorites. On the pitch, it’s anyone’s game.
Jason Kreis doesn’t have a clear creator in this midfield, often opting to play with three “number 6s” together. Jackson Yueill is the captain and a member of the senior squad, but he, Johnny Cardoso and Andres Perea have had to shuffle around and figure out how to exist together in a midfield three. Johnny has often been the more forward of the trio, a role that’s not his natural position.
Minnesota United midfielder Hassani Dotson injured his ankle in their loss to Mexico, but his club coach Adrian Heath says he should be good to go for tonight’s match. If he’s healthy, Kreis will surely consider giving him the start to give the US more of an edge from midfield.
Date: Sunday, March 28
Time: 5:00 PM central, Stadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico
TV: FS1, TUDN