The 'absolute disaster' behind USA's Olympics embarrassment

Andrew Reid
·4-min read
Pictured left, David Ochoa's big mistake that left American players distraught after the match.
David Ochoa's shocking blunder meant heartbreak for the Americans after the match. Pic: Twitter/ESPN FC

For the third Olympic Games in a row, the United States will have no male representation in the football competition after an embarrassing defeat against Honduras in qualifying.

A shocking goalkeeping error consigned the American men's soccer team to a 2-1 semi-final defeat to Honduras.

The mostly American under-23 side, as required by competition rules, was largely outplayed and convincingly beaten by their Honduran counterparts.

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However, it was a horrific mistake from American goalkeeper David Ochoa that helped Honduras take a 2-0 lead in the match.

The keeper was put under a bit of pressure after receiving a pass in his goal square, with Honduran forward Luis Palma quickly closing the keeper down.

Ochoa dawdled on the ball and seemed to take an age to attempt to get it clear, before eventually kicking the ball into Palma's outstretched leg.

The attempted clearance ricocheted off the attacker and into the back of the USA goal, doubling Honduras' advantage.

USA did manage to pull a goal back thanks to a thunderbolt from Jackson Yueill, but the Hondurans held on to claim a massive win.

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

As he crouched alone, Palma, the Honduran goalscorer, and Ochoa's club teammate two season ago, came over to console him.

The goalkeeper's massive mistake led to fierce criticism on social media, however, many fans insisted USA were simply not good enough as a team.

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The young Americans pressed late on but couldn't find an equaliser, meaning just as they did in 2012 and 2016, they fell short of qualifying for the Olympic Games.

The result meant Honduras qualified in America's place, with Mexico joining them as the region's other qualifiers, courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Canada.

USA missing several big-name stars

An Olympic qualifying failure is nowhere near on par with the USMNT's 2018 World Cup qualifying failure.

However, the Games are often seen as a barometer of youth development, with failures in 2012 and 2016 an alarming sign of insufficient progress.

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 perennial Italian champion Juventus. Christian Pulisic is at English Premier League giants Chelsea. Tyler Adams is at RB Leipzig in Germany. Gio Reyna is also in Germany at Borussia Dortmund. The list is extensive, and growing, seemingly by the month.

Pictured here, Christian Pulisic dribbles the ball during the USMNT's friendly against Northern Ireland.
Chelsea's 22-year-old American star Christian Pulisic was part of the USMNT senior squad but absent from the Olympic qualifier. Pic: Getty

Those players weren't part of this Olympic qualifying team. 

Due to the fact the Olympics are considered a youth event, and occur outside an official international window, professional clubs aren't required to release their players to Olympic teams. 

Very few in Europe did and many of those promising young stars were with the senior USMNT, who beat Jamaica and Northern Ireland in friendlies this week.

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

Still, though, the United States was favoured to qualify, and should have. 

It's a missed opportunity, and another blemish on an awful half-decade for American men's football.

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