U.S. men's soccer fails to qualify for Olympics thanks to embarrassing goalkeeper mistake

GUADALAJARA, MEXICO - MARCH 28: José Reyes #07 of Honduras fights for the ball with Jesús Ferreira #09 of United States during the semifinals match between Honduras and USA as part of the 2020 Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying at Jalisco Stadium on March 28, 2021 in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)
The U.S. fell to Honduras 2-1 on Sunday in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)

The men's soccer competition at the Olympics is far from the most prestigious international tournament. But failing to qualify can be both a worrying omen and program stain.

And fail to qualify is exactly what the U.S. men did on Sunday – for the third consecutive Olympic cycle.

A 2-1 loss to Honduras in a decisive semifinal will extend their Games absence to at least 16 years.

A mostly-under-23 American B-team, as required by competition rules, was outplayed by an under-23 Honduran squad and deservedly beaten. 

The deciding goal, though, came via a fluky, inexcusable mistake. U.S. goalkeeper David Ochoa played a costly pass directly onto the goalscoring foot of Honduran attacker Luis Palma. The ball ricocheted off Palma's boot and into a gaping net.

Ochoa, who'd been excellent throughout the tournament, was distraught after the game, walking around the pitch with his hands over his head.

Honduras had scored a few minutes before halftime to take the lead. Ochoa's gaffe doubled the lead early in the second half.

U.S. midfielder Jackson Yueill, a 24-year-old reserve with the senior national team, pulled the U.S. back to within one with a 25-yard firecracker.

But the young Americans couldn't find an equalizer. And just as they did in 2012 and 2016, they fell short of the Olympics.

Contextualizing the qualifying failure

An Olympic qualifying failure is nowhere near on par with the USMNT's 2018 World Cup qualifying failure. But the Games are often seen as a barometer of youth progress. Failures in 2012 and 2016 were alarming signs of insufficient progress in youth development.

This failure is slightly different. Youth development on the men's side has improved in recent years. A bevy of under-23 American stars are now playing at some of the world's biggest clubs. Weston McKennie is at Juventus (Italy). Christian Pulisic is at Chelsea (England). Tyler Adams is at RB Leipzig (Germany). The list is extensive, and growing, seemingly by the month.

Those players weren't part of this Olympic qualifying team. Because the Olympics are considered a youth event, and occur outside of an official international window, professional clubs aren't required to release their players to Olympic teams.

And so this was something of an under-23 B-team. Pulisic and others might have played at the actual Olympics. But this squad comprised mostly MLS players.

Still, though, the U.S. was favored to qualify. It disappointed throughout the whole tournament. And the wait for a return to the Olympics will go on.

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source https://sports.yahoo.com/usmnt-soccer-olympic-qualifying-failure-000136856.html?src=rss

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