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What a day of emotions for U.S. Soccer fans, and to spoil the end of the story, it didn’t end happily.
Monday actually began with reserved hope for the Olympic team. Despite a disappointing loss Saturday to Canada, coach Caleb Porter‘s team would advance to the semifinals with a win over El Salvador in the group-stage finale Monday in Nashville.
Earlier in the day, when Canada blew a late lead to Cuba and settled for a 1-1 draw, optimism grew.
That meant the U.S. could still win the group — and thus likely avoid Mexico in the semifinals — with a win. A loss or tie would mean elimination.
The swings were worse in the game, where the U.S. took an early lead through Terrence Boyd (1′) and excitement surged. Then El Salvador struck with back-to-back goals (35′ and 37′) and worry returned. Boyd equalized with his second (65′) and then, astonishingly, Joe Corona put the U.S. ahead soon after (68′).
For the next 22 minutes, the goal was simple: Just hold on…
Which the team did…
Until the final seconds of stoppage time.
That’s when El Salvador’s Jaime Alas hit a somewhat hopeful shot from distance that U.S. goalkeeper Sean Johnson unfortunately mishandled. The ball sneaked into the goal, the final whistle blew on a 3-3 tie and the Olympic qualifying dream was over.
The U.S. hosts finished third in Group A at 1-1-1 and won’t be playing this summer in London. It’s only the second time the U.S. hasn’t qualified for the Olympics since 1976.
Group winner El Salvador and runner-up Canada will wait for Tuesday’s results to learn their opponents in the semifinals in Kansas City. Mexico is expected to win Group B with Honduras taking second, but we’ll see. The two semifinal winners are the two qualifiers for the Olympics.
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Did you watch the game? What do you think?