OQ Recap: Danger Looms


There was optimism heading into the match with Canada as the U.S. had a chance to clinch a spot in the next round of Olympic qualifying with a win.  However, the news of a torn meniscus for Juan Agudelo put a slight damper on the match.  However, there had to be focus on the pitch as Teal Bunbury would play against his father’s native nation and coach Caleb Porter preached further possession of the ball to build on the easy win against Cuba.  However, this would end as a big step backwards.

Possession early belonged to the United States as they looked to spring Brek Shea and Bunbury.  However, Canada showed it was ready to play very compact in the back in order to counterattack the waves of pressure from the U.S.  Each team earned threatening free kicks while Canada got the game’s first corner.  Ike Opara was solid on defense early.    Still, the first 20 minutes were uneventful.

October 1, 2011; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Sporting KC forward Teal Bunbury (9) celebrates after scoring a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half at Buck Shaw Stadium. Kansas City tied San Jose 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

While Canada was doing a good job keeping the attack at bay it was not all good news.  They had to use a substitute early as Babaleye Sodade came down awkwardly on his knee.  He tested it out on the sideline, but was replaced by Evan James.  Sodade would have been a good threat against the U.S. defense.

Freddy Adu kept the pace and found Shea open a few times.  Canada seemed to leave Shea open countless times in the first half but nothing would amount from attacks from out wide the few times the ball was sent his way.  Adu was the only player attempting to attack the middle.  Not surprisingly for a team that had scored one goal or less in eight of its last nine Olympic qualifiers, Canada’s focus was compact defense.  Coincidentally, the U.S. had conceded one goal or less in its last six Olympic qualifiers.  After a minute of stoppage play and less effective midfield play for the U.S., the teams would go to half scoreless.

The hero of the first match against Cuba, Joe Corona, came out to begin the second half in favor of Joe Gyau.  Bunbury would soon be replaced by Terrence Boyd as well.  Unfortunately it was not a great night for Bunbury in a game against his father’s homeland.

An early free kick found the ball in the net from Opara, but was called off on a rightful offside.  The lackluster effort would be capitalized upon by Canada off a corner kick in the 58th minute as Donell Henry would head it home.  Immediately the crowd would get be behind the home team as they would try to find a sense of urgency.

Gyau would help test the defense, but the U.S. still could not find the net.  Opara had another chance on the header.  Perry Kitchen found a deflection and pushed it wide.  Shea sent one wide on a good opportunity.  Amobi Okugo would not perform well as a yellow card allowed for the second goal for Canada off the following free kick as Opara lost his mark.  It was 2-0 Canada with about ten minutes to play.

It was not a good effort for the U.S. squad who will now enter the match on Monday needing a win against El Salvador to advance to the qualifier semifinals.  This assumes that Canada beats Cuba, which is all but a guarantee.  El Salvador will most likely mimic the Canadian defensive strategy looking to move on as well.  Canada deserved the victory and now will be in the mix to make the Olympics in London.

Coach Porter and captain Adu will need to refocus this squad to move out of the group.  As is the case of the U.S. sports fan, there was a lot of extreme disappointment after the 2-0 loss.  They will still have a chance and must own the pitch on Monday.