Published December 03, 2016
The United States under-23 men's soccer team will have its last chance for an Olympic berth when the Americans meet Colombia on Tuesday night.
A Colombia win or a tie with multiple goals scored would send the South American team to the Olympics in Rio in August. The U.S. then would miss consecutive Olympics for the first time since failing to qualify in 1960, '64 and '68.
"We have to have a real good game to reach our goal to go to Rio," U.S. coach Andi Herzog said. "If not, then Colombia's too good for us to qualify, and we don't deserve it."
The teams tied 1-1 on Friday in 90-degree heat in Barranquilla, Colombia. Tuesday will be the second leg in a two-match series. Aggregate goals will determine which team receives the 16th and last Olympic berth.
Even though a scoreless tie would send the U.S. to Rio, Herzog and striker Jordan Morris said the team wouldn't sit back.
"The way that we defend less is keep the ball more," Morris said.
"It's always normally easier to play in front of your home crowd," Herzog said, "and hopefully better weather conditions for us, so that should be hopefully an advantage for us. It doesn't help us if the weather is for us if we don't play really good."
The forecast for Tuesday night's start is for temperatures in the upper 60s, cloudy skies and a 20-mph wind from the southeast.
Toyota Stadium also is home to MLS' FC Dallas, whose roster includes U.S. defenders Kellyn Acosta and Walker Zimmerman.
"I think we'll get a decent crowd," Acosta said. "Colombia had tons of fans, so hopefully we'll have the same energy with our crowd as well.
U.S. midfielder Emerson Hyndman is a Dallas native.
"A lot of my family is coming down from Illinois that I don't get to see very often."
Even with hometown fans, only 5,000 tickets had been sold as of Monday. General admission tickets were marked down to $10.
To reach this qualifying match, the U.S. placed third in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament and Colombia was runner-up in the South American youth championships.
If the second leg ends in a tie, the tiebreakers are most road goals, most goals in extra time and if needed penalty kicks.
U.S. goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, who left Friday's match just before halftime because of a head injury, resumed training Saturday and can play Tuesday.
Colombia's Rafael Santos Borre, also injured in that match, will not play Tuesday. The Colombians have added Guillermo Celis, who played on Friday in his country's World Cup qualifier.
The countries' under-23 teams never have played each other. Many of the players in this series faced each other last year when the U.S. beat Colombia in the FIFA under-20 World Cup.
The American team has stayed together through last fall's CONCACAF qualifier, friendly matches and a training camp beginning in January.
"This is our last chance to qualify, and I think we can do it," Morris said. "Since I was a little kid, that has been my dream. It's pretty crazy that (Tuesday) that could be a reality, so it's exciting."