Partially due to an ugly goalkeeping mistake that should not be made by any serious contender, the United States failed to qualify for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament, again.
The U.S. fell to Honduras 2-1 in a regional qualifying tournament in Mexico on Sunday and will now miss the Games for the third straight time.
Though the drought is not as big of a referendum on the national team’s progress as it may appear considering that the Olympic men’s tournament has been an under-23 championship since 1992, it is still not a good look that the U.S. men’s team last appeared in the Olympics at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games and has missed the Games four of the last five times.
The second goal for Honduras, which came early in the second half when U.S. goalkeeper David Ochoa’s sad attempt to clear the ball ricocheted off Honduras’ Luis Palma and into the goal, was also not a good look for the U.S. men.
The under-23 team, which took the pitch without many of its better players due to their commitments to their professional American and European clubs, beat Costa Rica 1-0 and the Dominican Republic 4-0 before losing to Mexico earlier in the qualifying tournament.
“Obviously, we’re devastated, absolutely devastated,” U.S. coach Jason Kreis said. “In our locker room, the guys are like it’s a tragedy — a tragedy. We lose an opportunity to play in an international tournament with more pressure, where these players have to be in these environments and continue to improve with that pressure.”
The familiar Olympic failure is part of an alarming trend for the U.S. men that includes the senior national team missing the 2018 World Cup. (The full U.S. squad beat Northern Ireland 2-1 over the weekend, the USMNT’s first win in Europe against a European team in five years.)
Still, all is not lost for U.S. Soccer, as the world-champion women’s team qualified for the Olympics last year and will be a favorite to win a gold medal when the Games open in July. The U.S. women have won three of the last four gold medals in soccer.
Thanks to the win, Honduras will advance to its fourth straight Olympics after finishing fourth in 2016. Mexico, the 2012 gold medal winner, earned the other berth from North and Central America and the Caribbean. The Olympic men’s soccer tournament will be played from July 21 to August 7 in Tokyo, Kashima, Miyagi, Saitama, Sapporo and Yokohama.