My 3 Thoughts on the Men's Olympic Berth Decider Between the U.S. and Honduras
U.S. wins 3-0 at Honduras, clinching first men's Olympic soccer berth since 2008
The U.S. men’s Olympic soccer qualifying curse is finally over. Here are my three thoughts on the U.S.’s 3-0 win at Honduras, earning the Yanks a spot in Paris 2024:
• The U.S. absolutely deserved this. Playing Honduras in Honduras, the U.S. took the crowd out of the game early with Paxten Aaronson’s third-minute goal, scored twice more in the first half through Alejandro Alvarado and Quinn Sullivan and thoroughly dominated the game when it mattered most. What was most impressive about the U.S. performance was the team’s total control of passing, possessing the ball for long stretches of build-up and creating dangerous chances with regularity. Previous U.S. teams just haven’t had showed this kind of composure when it comes to controlling games, and it was gorgeous to watch at times. Was it true that Honduras was achingly poor defensively on all three conceded goals? Yes. But the U.S. still created the chances for the goals to happen, and the victory was hard earned from the opening whistle.
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• The U.S. men’s Olympic soccer misery is over. For three straight miserable and embarrassing Olympic cycles, the U.S. Under-23 men somehow conspired to miss out on the making the main event. So maybe it was good news that the responsibility shifted to the Under-20 team this time as CONCACAF altered the format and made the region’s Under-20 championship the qualifying tournament for both the Under-20 World Cup and the Under-23 Olympics tournament. The U.S. men have actually been good at the Under-20 level for a while now! They won the last two CONCACAF Under-20 championships (a third straight is up for grabs in the final of this tournament against the surprising Dominican Republic) and have reached the quarterfinals of the last three Under-20 World Cups. I’m not a fan of using one tournament to qualify for multiple global competitions—just ask Mexico, which went out in the quarterfinals and got the double-jeopardy punishment of missing both the Under-20 World Cup and the Olympics—but the U.S. finds itself on the other side of that coin now, the much better side to be on.
• Men’s Olympic soccer matters more for the U.S. than it does for European countries. I’m a little tired of hearing people from European countries say that men’s Olympic soccer doesn’t matter. Of course it matters less for European countries because they have highly competitive Under-19 and Under-21 championships that provide useful experiences for their best young prospects in international competition. But countries outside of Europe like the U.S. don’t have nearly as many opportunities for good competition in international circles, so making the Olympics means more here. I think there are connections to be drawn from the U.S. men’s Olympic tournament experiences in 2000 and 2008 to the World Cup performances by some of those same players in 2002 and 2010. And I think there are direct connections between the Olympic qualifying failures for 2012 and 2016 and the World Cup qualifying failure for 2018. Let’s see how this U.S. team does at the 2024 Olympics. The competition will be tougher than in this tournament, but if they can keep controlling games like this, the U.S. will be a blast to watch.
What are your thoughts? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
The 1st half was one of the best performances by a US Team (at any level) that I have seen. Maybe an interview with Coach Mikey Varas is in order!
It sure was fun to watch…