The United States men’s national team started their Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Championship with a win, albeit an unconvincing one. Thanks to FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira’s 35th minute goal, the USMNT U-23 side find themselves in the driver’s seat to qualify for the semifinals and a potential berth in the 2020 Olympics.
Without many surprised in the starting lineup, the US came out of the gates attacking. Ferreira nearly got the match off to the perfect start, hitting the woodwork in just the second minute. He made up for it in the 35th, drifting off the back shoulder of Costa Rica’s defense to find himself wide open on the back post and hammering home a driven cross from Sam Vines to give the US the lead.
Aside from a couple runs from Sam Vines, though, that was the high point of the match. The US went into the break with the lead, but after the half it was all Costa Rica. Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa was called on nine times to keep Costa Rican efforts out of the net, and the Yanks looked devoid of energy and ideas.
Nashville SC’s Randall Leal forced Ochoa into a solid save, and the US midfield were overran for much of the second period. Midfielder and captain Jackson Yueill found himself the subject of vigilant man-marking from the Ticos, and the entire midfield trio struggled to make up for it.
Jesus Ferreira had a chance to add a second in the 65th minute. An excellent ball from Hassani Dotson found the forward wide open in front of Costa Rica’s goal, but a heavy touch gave goalkeeper Kevin Chamorro plenty of time to come out and make the save.
Ultimately, three points put the US in good position to advance from the group, but the performance on the field was anything but convincing. They’ll live to fight another day, with their next match against Dominican Republic on Sunday appearing manageable, but they’ll need to improve to have a shot against Mexico in the final match of the group.
Man of the match – David Ochoa
The young goalkeeper was a surprise start ahead of JT Marcinkowski and Matt Freese, but rewarded head coach Jason Kreis with a match-winning display. The fact that he had to make nine saves speaks more to the sub-par performance of the team overall, but individually, he did his job perfectly. His saves to tip shots from Randall Leal and Luis Diaz were exceptional, and the US can thank their goalkeeper for the three points.