U.S. men's Olympic bid ends in red card-marred defeat to Colombia

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U.S. men's Olympic bid ends in red card-marred defeat to Colombia
U.S. men's Olympic bid ends in red card-marred defeat to Colombia

For a few brief moments, it looked like the United States might pull it off twice in one day. A few hours after the senior national team had breathed new life into its ailing World Cup qualifying campaign with a thumping 4-0 win over Guatemala, the Under-23s looked like they might actually stand a chance of reaching the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

[ FC Yahoo: USMNT gets World Cup qualifying back on track with rout of Guatemala ]

A looping own goal header by Colombia just before the hour equalized the return game in this home-and-away playoff at 2-2 on aggregate. And it seemed like fate might smile at the American Olympic team once again.

Just as they had somehow snuck out of Barranquilla with a 1-1 draw on Friday, in spite of being totally dismantled during the run of play, it appeared they might just draw things out into extra time, and then maybe even the lottery of penalties.

But then, in the 64th minute, Roger Martinez scored his second goal of the day for the Cafeteros and dashed any lingering illusions that these Americans were going to qualify. The totally outclassed U.S. would lose 2-1 in Frisco, Texas, 3-2 on aggregate, while being reduced to nine men late on.

For the third time in the last four Olympic cycles, there will be no American men's team at the Summer Games.

A 0-0 draw – or indeed a win – would have seen the Baby Yanks through on the early away goal Luis Gil had nabbed in the first game. It became plain fairly early on, however, that this was probably unrealistic.

The Americans, after all, made far too many silly and immature mistakes in their own third against a more seasoned opposition. Had it not been for Ethan Horvath's excellent interventions in goal, the game might have been decided a good deal sooner.

If Colombia weren't woeful in its finishing once more, in spite of yet again dominating the U.S. utterly, it might have put the game away within minutes. But inevitably, the Americans' sloppiness on the ball caught up to them. After half an hour, Helibelton Palacios sent in a cross, which the disappointing Desevio Payne and Matt Miazga both failed to clear. Andres Roa took a shot which Martinez redirected from close range.

The U.S. set out to frustrate its opponent, but that didn't much work. Kellyn Acosta stepped on an opponent and so did Tim Parker. It was dirty and dastardly and unbecoming of an otherwise sporting national team program.

Yet a lifeline materialized out of nowhere. In the 58th minute, Emerson Hyndman flipped a ball over the top to Jerome Kiesewetter. But Deiver Machado misread it and nodded it over his own goalkeeper, Cristian Bonilla.

Payne then made a crucial clearance at the far post. But in the 64th minute, Martinez turned the overcommitted Parker inside out with a wondrous touch on a cross and beat Horvath with a perfect finish.

So broke the American resistance. And soon, they were reduced to 10 men, and then nine. Gil's sending off in the 77th minute – with a second yellow card jut 10 minutes after coming on – was uncalled for, since he'd scarcely grazed his flopping and embellishing opponent. But then much of the Yanks' ungentlemanly comportment had gone unpunished, so it was perhaps not entirely unfair for them to lose a player.

And when Miazga was ejected for hauling down Colombia's Cristian Borja, who had broken away, there was no real argument to be had.

Colombia, demeaning itself to its own gamesmanship, ran out the clock. And yet another generation of American prospects will miss out on an invaluable and formative development experience.

Defending the honor of the United States at the Olympic soccer tournaments will once again be left to the women.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

 

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