What is this game for?
The US U-23 Men's National Team will play a home and away series against Colombia for the final spot in the Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
When is the return leg?
Tuesday, March 29th in Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas.
How Did We Get Here?
The US U-23 team finished third in CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying back in October, 2015. The US won their group with a 3-0 record including wins over Canada, Cuba and Panama. Then the US U-23 team lost a winner goes to the Olympics Semi-Final against Honduras 2-0. The game was in Sandy, Utah. They then beat Canada 2-0 for the right to make the playoffs against a CONMEBOL representative.
Colombia finished second in the 2015 South American Youth Championship, a ten team tournament for the U-20 age group that was held in Uruguay from January 14th - February 7th, 2015. Argentina won the tournament for a spot in the Olympics and Brazil qualified as the host taking one of CONMEBOL's two automatic spots, Colombia qualified for the playoffs against the third place CONCACAF team by finishing second. There is no dedicated U-23 Olympic Qualifying tournament in CONMEBOL, thus the U-20 age group qualifies for the U-23 tournament a year and a half before the Olympics.
Who is on the team?
Jordan Morris leads the attack, he is quite popular around these parts. Tyler Miller was a late addition to replace the injured Zack Steffen. Here is the entire roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Milton Keynes Dons, ENG), Ethan Horvath (Molde FK, NOR), Tyler Miller (Seattle Sounders)
DEFENDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Miazga (Chelsea FC, ENG), Eric Miller (Colorado Rapids), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Desevio Payne (FC Groningen, NED), Shane O'Neill (Cambridge United, ENG), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana, MEX), Luis Gil (Queretaro, MEX), Julian Green (Bayern Munich, GER), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham FC, ENG), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart, GER), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS (3): Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Monchengladbach, GER), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC)
Is this our best team possible?
Kind of, but not really. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are both age eligible for the Olympic team. US Soccer Technical Director Jurgen Klinsmann has decided to call those players up to the full national team that plays a World Cup Qualifier in Guatemala later today (there will be another gamethread for that), they undoubtedly would be starters on this team.
Wait, we have two games today?
By we, I assume you mean the USA? Yes we do! This is a FIFA date, and the last FIFA date before the European calendar ends this season. So there are quite a few fixtures on these dates. It is a pretty unique situation to have two such important games on the same day but it happened as recently as October 10th, 2015. When this same team lost to Honduras as mentioned above and the USMNT lost the Confederations Cup Playoff against Mexico. Let's move on.
How about Colombia, I hear they are good?
Colombia are good. Finishing second in a CONMEBOL youth tournament is a big deal. But youth tournaments are notoriously hard to predict and Colombia does not have a dedicated U-23 Olympic team, this squad does not resemble the team that finished second in that tournament as they have chosen a more experienced team than the U-20 one. Here is the roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Cristian Bonilla (Atletico Nacional, COL), Alvaro Montero (San Lorenzo, ARG), Luis Hurtado (Deportivo Cali, COL)
DEFENDERS (9): Cristian Borja (Santa Fe, COL), Yerry Mina (Santa Fe, COL), Jaine Barreiro (Santa Fe, COL), Luis Orejuela (Deportivo Cali, COL), Deiver Machado (Millonarios, COL), Felipe Aguilar (Atletico Nacional, COL), Davinson Sanchez (Atletico Nacional, COL), Helibelton Palacios (Deportivo Cali, COL), Jherson Vergara (Livorno, ITA)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Juan Pablo Nieto (Atletico Nacional, COL), Juan Fernando Quintero (Rennes, FRA), Yony Gonzalez (Junior, COL), Raul Loaiza (Patriotas, COL), Jose Leudo (Deportivo Pasto, COL), Wilmar Barrios (Deportes Tolima, COL), Andres Felipe Roa (Deportivo Cali, COL), Jarlan Barrera (Junior, COL)
FORWARDS (5): Roger Martinez (Racing Club, ARG), Cristian Dajome (Deportes Tolima, COL), Harold Preciado (Deportivo Cali, COL), Rafael Santos Borre (Deportivo Cali, COL), Andres Renteria (Santos Laguna, MEX)
Are away goals still a thing?
Yes. Away goals are the first tie-breaker and they count during extra-time of the second leg.
How To Watch:
US U-23 v Colombia U-23
Friday, 2 PM
Location: Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez, Barranquilla, Colombia
TV: Fox Sports 1 & Univision Deportes
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
John Strong and Stuart Holden on the call.
This is your Sounder at Heart Olympic Qualifying Playoff Gamethread, watch with us.