Colorado Rapids’ Sam Vines and Jonathan Lewis likely to play key roles again.
The U-23 United States Men’s Soccer Team (USMNT) will face their stiffest challenge to date in the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying tournament when they take on regional rival and host Mexico tonight in Guadalajara. The showdown will determine who earns first place in the tournament’s Group A table—plus bragging rights between the neighboring nations.
Both teams won their first two games against the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, and have qualified to advance to the tournament’s semifinals against the top two teams in Group B. The games are scheduled to be played on Sunday, March 28.
The Yanks are coming off of a 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic, a game that saw the U.S. score all of their goals in the final 30 minutes of play. Both Jonathan Lewis and Sam Vines started in the match and Vines played through stoppage time. From the start of the match, the Rapids’ leftback delivered numerous balls into the box. Well into the second half, he was in the mix again and started a pass sequence that led to the third goal for the U.S.
Lewis’ spark and hard work were evident from the first whistle. He came off in the middle of the second half just before the USA found their mojo and scored four goals in a flurry.
In the post-game press conference, Jason Kreis and Jonathan Lewis reflected on Team USA’s games against Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, and the team’s preparation ahead of Mexico vs. USA.
Mexico won in its last outing over Costa Rica 3-0. Much to the joy of a limited local audience, they dominated the Ticos from start to finish. Their attacking side picked up where it left off against the Dominican Republic. They out-possessed Costa Rica 55% to 45% and took 14 shots on goal.
An absolute clinic.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 22, 2021
USA vs. Mexico
Going into this match, Mexico holds a one-goal differential advantage over Team USA, so a draw will not be enough for the Yanks to secure the top spot in the table. The red, white, and blue will need to come out with a certain ferocity to beat Mexico, who have dominated their opponents by leveraging both their creative team-play and athleticism.
Given the fact that both teams have qualified for the semifinals and winning their forthcoming semifinal match being the ultimate prize, today’s match is only for national boasting rights.
Both sides are very conscious of what the end-all is: earning a berth to the Summer Olympics. Fans should expect that Mexico’s head coach, Jamie Lozano, and Jason Kreis will be risk-averse and make game-time decisions with regards to who starts and who will be substituted in (or not).
Paramount for both teams will be keeping players fresh and injury-free for Sunday’s games, and avoiding yellow cards and red card suspensions at all costs. The USMNT’s Justen Glad and Jesus Ferreira will enter this game with one yellow card each to their names.
Should Mexico and the United States win their respective semifinal games, they will face-off one more time in the tournament final on Tuesday, March 30.
The USA has played in 14 Men’s Olympic Football Tournaments, more than any other nation in Concacaf and is 2-0-1 against Mexico at Olympic qualifying since it became a U-23 competition in 1992.
Team USA is 2-5-3 all-time versus Mexico at Concacaf Olympic qualifying. El Tri forfeited two matches in 1980 competition after fielding a professional player earlier in the competition, a violation of Concacaf rules and policies.
All 20 of Mexico’s rostered players play in Liga MX, including six from Chivas Guadalajara. Chivas plays its home games at Estadio Akron, one of two venues for this Olympic qualifying tournament.
The United States features players from 11 MLS clubs, with Real Salt Lake contributing the most at three. The Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, Orlando City SC, and San Jose Earthquakes each had two players named to the roster. In addition to the nine players with Concacaf Championship experience at the U-20 level, Rapids’ winger Jonathan Lewis and Djordje Mihailovic were part of the senior USMNT’s runner-up finish at the 2019 Gold Cup.
How to Watch
Match Date/Time: Wednesday, March, 24 at 7:30 p.m. MT
Venue: Estadio Jalisco — Guadalajara, Mexico
TV Information: FS1 and TUDN
CONCACAF U.S. MEN’S OLYMPIC QUALIFYING CHAMPIONSHIP ROSTER BY POSITION (AFFILIATION; HOMETOWN):
GOALKEEPERS (3): 12-Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), 1-JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes, Alamo, Calif.), 20-David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (6): 2-Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompoc, Calif.), 4-Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), 17-Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; Las Cruces, N.M.), 3-Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; New York, N.Y.), 5-Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; Bolingbrook, Ill.), 13-Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.)
MIDFIELDERS (7): 16-Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; Denville, N.J.), 18-Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.), 8-Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal/CAN; Lemont, Ill.), 15-Andrés Perea (Orlando City SC; Medellin, Colombia), 10-Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas/MEX; Park City, Utah), 11-Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas; Hoover, Ala.), 6-Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; Bloomington, Minn.)
FORWARDS (4): 9-Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), 7-Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), 14-Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), 19-Sebastian Soto (Norwich City/ENG; San Diego, Calif.)