By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Under-23 men's national team's Olympic dream is over before it ever really got started.
A late blunder by substitute goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the final minute of stoppage time erased a heroic comeback from the United States, as El Salvador knocked Caleb Porter's side out of Olympic qualifying with a 3-3 draw at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. on Monday night.
The Americans clawed their way back from a 2-1 deficit with two unanswered in the second half, but that was not enough to secure advancement to the all-important semifinals match as Johnson failed to cleanly block a Jaime Alas shot in the 95th minute of the Group A finale.
Making matters worse for the United States was that a win over El Salvador would have won the Americans the group after already-eliminated Cuba pulled out an improbable 1-1 draw versus Canada through a late goal in the first game of the doubleheader.
Still, the United States got off to a dream start in the dramatic and chippy game, with Terrence Boyd scoring on a volleyed effort in the first minute off a cross from Brek Shea.
Things then turned sour as Lester Blanco and Andres Flores each scored for the visitors in a span of three minutes towards the end of the first half.
Blanco scored first with a header off a corner kick in the 35th minute, and that was followed up with a finish from Flores two minutes later. Both goals came against starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who was replaced by Johnson in the 39th minute after picking up an injury just before the goals.
Needing a win to secure advancement, the U.S. team rallied in the second half after fading in the opening 45 minutes. Captain Freddy Adu delivered assists to Boyd and midfielder Joe Corona in a four-minute stretch, giving the United States the result they needed to advance.
Boyd scored his second goal of the game when he got on the end of a through ball from Adu and finished to the near post in the 65th minute. Corona scored his fourth goal of the tournament three minutes later, nodding home a right-footed cross from Adu.
Leading 3-2, the United States was on the brink of winning Group A and advancing to the semifinals before Alas made a dribbling run across the field and unleashed a thunderous shot. Johnson parried the shot but did not get enough of it to prevent it from bouncing into the back of the net, resulting in El Salvador's advancement and the U.S. team's demise.
What do you make of the United States' 3-3 draw with El Salvador and their elimination from qualifying for the Olympics? What do you think was ultimately the demise of the Americans? Do you want to see Porter get the boot?
Share your thoughts below.