The Concacaf Olympic Qualifier semi-finals are upon us. On Sunday the United States will take on Honduras at 6:00 p.m. and then at 9:00 p.m. Canada takes on Concacaf giant Mexico. The winners of both matches will advance to the final but also earn a spot in the Summer Olympics. The losers will go home and have to wait three more years for another chance at qualifying for the Olympics.
Group Stage Results:
Mexico: 3-0-0, 8 GF, 1 GA, +7 GD
United States: 2-1-0, 5 GF, 1 GA, +4 GD
Honduras: 1-0-2, 5 GF, 2 GA, +3 GD
Canada: 1-0-2, 3 GF, 1 GA, +2 GD
From a New England Revolution perspective, the US U-23 team has defender Henry Kessler on the roster while the Canadian team has forward Tajon Buchanan. Kessler started two out of three group stage matches for the U.S. while Buchanan started all three matches for Canada. While Buchanan is a likely start for Canada the clarity regarding Kessler on the U.S. is less clear. Per U.S. U-23 Head Coach Jason Kreis while the decision between Kessler, Justen Glad, and Mauricio Pineda was a difficult one the coaching staff has made a decision. As for what that decision is we will have to wait until the Starting XI is released.
“I have been really pleased with all three to be completely frank,” said US U-23 Head Coach Jason Kreis on his three center-backs. “I think all three have had for the majority good moments. All three have also had a minority of bad moments where they have just lost focus a little bit, given the ball away in dangerous positions. It is mostly been what they have done with the ball that hasn’t been absolute 100%. What they have done without the ball I would say all three of them have been really positive. Made some critical coverages of outside backs, covering each other, defensive plays, tackles.”
David v Goliath For Buchanan & Canada?
“We talk about probably one of the biggest achievements in Canadian soccer history,” said Canada U-23 Head Coach Mauro Biello if his team was able to win the match against Mexico. “To come thru and win this game, go on to the Olympics, beating the best team in Concacaf in their country. There is no doubt that this opportunity is massive for the team and for the country. I think today and tomorrow we not only represent the team but we represent a country that is behind us. It’s great to be in this opportunity, the players are ready to do everything that they can to make this happen. These stories have happened in sports. It is a David and Goliath story going on right now and for us to do everything we can to make this happen.”
USMNT Take On Northern Ireland In International Friendly
On Sunday the United State’s Men’s National Team will also be in action with Gregg Berhalter‘s team taking on Northern Ireland in an international friendly. The match will air on FOX and kick-off at 12:05 p.m. ET at Windsor Park. This is the second and final friendly of this European-based March training camp with the first resulting in a 4-1 win over Jamaica.
Northern Ireland is currently in the middle of FIFA European World Cup Qualifiers with a 2-0 loss to Italy this past Thursday and another next Wednesday against Bulgaria. This means that Northern Ireland will be managing it’s players availability and minutes to put them in the best position in games that actually matter. That being said the chance to watch Italy take on Northern Ireland was a good preview for USMNT.
Northern Ireland tends to play a compact style forcing teams to try and play quick passes to get behind and break down their formation. That was how they played in the first half against Italy but then they went into a high press which created chances for not only themselves but also Italy on the counter.
Over the past year, USMNT has faced primarily Concacaf teams driven primarily by the pandemic. The lone non-Concacaf team that they have played within the last year was a 0-0 draw against Wales.
Getting a quality win against Northern Ireland will continue the progression of the team ahead of a critical 2021 slate. After this match the next time USMNT will be together is for the Concacaf Nations League in early June. As of now the team is expected to play Switzerland on May 30th in a friendly ahead of a Concacaf Nations League semi-final match against Honduras on June 3rd.
Per Head Coach Gregg Berhalter all 23 players are available for this match but certain players may have in-game minutes restrictions due to a lack of fitness. This will likely affect the MLS based players like Aaron Long who is still in pre-season form.
We’re certainly going to use this game to look at some new faces,” said USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter on if the lineup will include newer faces. “We need to do that. We need to have really good information on all the players before we get into this busy year.”