Los Angeles Soccer: CONCACAF

GALAXY: Home games start CCL run

June, 22, 2012
The Galaxy will have to get results right from the start when the CONCACAF Champions League kicks off next month: They open their campaign with two home games, then finish group play on the road.

That leaves no margin for error against Salvadoran powerhouse Isidro Metapan, the only club not from Mexico or Major League Soccer to reached the quarterfinals in the last competition, and Puerto Rico Islanders, a 2009 semifinalist who beat the Galaxy in the preliminary round in the 2010-11 tournament.

CONCACAF on Friday announced the matches for eight three-team, first-stage groups, with the first games -- one involving two-time defending champion Monterrey, from Mexico, and the other with Real Salt Lake visiting Costa Rica's Herediano -- set for July 31. Puerto Rico, which plays in American second-division North American Soccer League, claimed the final berth in the tournament Thursday by winning the third-place match at the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship.

The Galaxy have a bye in the first week and open their Group 5 schedule Aug. 23 at Home Depot Center against Metapan, then take on the Islanders at HDC on Aug. 29. They play Sept. 19 at Puerto Rico and Oct. 25 at Metapan.

L.A. will have no complaints about the delayed start: The friendly against Real Madrid is Aug. 2, during the first “match day,” and comes in a stretch of seven games in 23 days, including also the July 24 friendly against Tottenham.

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The Galaxy's first trip to the CONCACAF Champions League was over right as it started, thanks to a second-tier club from the Caribbean that wasn't supposed to provide a challenge.

Now L.A. gets another stab at the Puerto Rico Islanders, who on Thursday claimed the final spot in Group 5 of the Champions League with a victory over Antigua Barracuda in the third-place game at the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship.

The Islanders, making their fifth successive appearance in CONCACAF's club championship, will play home-and-homes later this summer and in early fall with the Galaxy and El Salvador's Isidro Metapan, with the top side advancing to next year's quarterfinals.

The clubs expected a match schedule last week, but CONCACAF has not yet provided one. Openers are to be played July 31-Aug. 2, and the group stage ends Oct. 23-25.

The Islanders, who play in the second-division North American Soccer League, ousted the Galaxy in the preliminary round of the 2010-11 Champions League, rolling to a 4-1 victory in the first leg at Home Depot Center and advancing after the Galaxy won, 2-1, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

Bill Gaudette, the Galaxy's No. 3 goalkeeper, was in the nets for the Islanders, who also have beaten Toronto FC, Mexican clubs Cruz Azul, Santos Laguna and Toluca, and Costa Rican powerhouse Alajuelense in the competition. Coach Bruce Arena came down with dengue fever while in Puerto Rico.

The Islanders lost to Isidro Metapan, on the away-goals rule, in last season's prelimary round. The Salvadorans, who also have taken part in all four tournaments since CONCACAF switched to the league format in 2008, were the only club not from Mexico or Major League Soccer to reach the knockout stage. Metapan defeated Santos and Pumas UNAM at home during their run but was blown out in the away legs.

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GALAXY: Draw is Metapan, Caribbean team

June, 5, 2012

The Galaxy will face Salvadoran powerhouse Isidro Metapan and the least of the Caribbean's three qualifiers in the group stage of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.

Tuesday's draw in New York placed the Galaxy, the top U.S. qualifier for the regional club championship, atop Group 5. Metapan, which is making its fifth successive CCL appearance, was the only club not from Major League Soccer or Mexico to reach the knockout stage of the competition that wrapped in April. It has won six of the last 11 league titles in El Salvador, since spring 2007.

The Caribbean entrants will be determined in a four-team group final in the Caribbean Football Union's Club Championship. The finalists include two teams playing in U.S. leagues -- two-time defending Caribbean champ Puerto Rico Islanders (from the second-division North American Soccer League) and Antigua Barracuda (from the third-division USL Pro) -- along with Trinidadian powers Caledonia AIA and W Connection. No schedule has been announced.

CONCACAF also hasn't announced a schedule for the Champions League, which kicks off July 31. Group play runs through mid-October and the eight group winners will be seeded based on results for the knockout stage, which begins next March.

Here are all of the groups:

Santos Laguna (Mexico)
Toronto FC (Canada)
Aguila (El Salvador)

Herediano (Costa Rica)
Real Salt Lake (U.S.)
Tauro (Panama)

Olimpia (Honduras)
Houston Dynamo (U.S.)
FAS (El Salvador)

Seattle Sounders (U.S.)
Marathon (Honduras)
Caribbean 1

Galaxy (U.S.)
Isidro Metapan (El Salvador)
Caribbean 3

UANL Tigres (Mexico)
Alajuelense (Costa Rica)
Real Esteli (Nicaragua)

Chorrillo (Panama)
Monterrey (Mexico)
Municipal (Guatemala)

Xelaju (Guatemala)
Guadalajara (Mexico)
Caribbean 2

Corona's Munerlyn lifts U.S. to title

May, 12, 2012
Corona's Amber Munerlyn scored the lone goal Saturday night to lead the U.S. past Canada in the championship game in CONCACAF's U-17 women's championship in Guatemala City.

Munerlyn (Santiago HS/So Cal Blues) scored on a 21st-minute breakaway for the Americans, who outscored five foes, 26-0, dominating every foe except the Canadians.

The U.S. and Canada advanced to the Sept. 22-Oct. 3 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Azerbaijan with semifinal victories Thursday.

Munerlyn made just two appearances in the Americans' five games, and she wasn't included in the 18-player game roster for the first two games, routs of the Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago.

Newport Beach's Maddie Bauer (Mater Dei HS/Slammers FC) played every minute of the tournament for the U.S. on the backline.

The U.S. outshot its opponents, 131-25, with big advantages in shots on goal (69-8) and corner kicks (33-12). Canada outshot the U.S., 13-10, and took seven corners to the Americans' three.

Summer Green, a high school junior from Milford, Mich., who set up Munerlyn's goal, broke the CONCACAF scoring record with 12 goals (plus four assists) in five games. She had three hat tricks, with five goals against the Bahamas.

LOCALS WITH U-23S: The U.S. under-23 women's national team opens a weeklong camp Sunday at Home Depot Center, and University of Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum has included seven local players on his roster:
  • D Lauren Barnes (Upland), Upland HS/UCLA, Beach FC
  • G Colleen Boyd (La Caņada Flintridge), La Caņada HS/Oregon State, Western New York Flash
  • D Abby Dahlkemper (Menlo Park), UCLA
  • D Camille Levin (Newport Coast), Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School/Stanford, Pali Blues
  • F Nadia Link (Rowland Heights), Walnut HS/Long Beach State, Santa Clarita Blue Heat
  • D Taylor Lytle (Las Cruces, N.M.), Texas Tech, Pali Blues
  • M Mariah Nogueira (Westminster), Marina HS/Stanford

OLYMPICS: U.S. finds out its foes

April, 24, 2012

Pia Sundhage
Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty ImagesU.S. coach Pia Sundhage.

The U.S. women's national team was paired with familiar opposition in Tuesday's Olympic soccer draw. All three first-round foes were on the Americans' path to last year's Women's World Cup title game.

They were draw with WWC group foes Colombia and North Korea, plus France, which they beat in the semifinals.

“It’s always exciting to know who we will be playing,” U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage said in a U.S. Soccer statement following the draw at Wembley Stadium in suburban London. “We will start with an excellent opponent that we faced in the World Cup and that is a good thing. Once again, we will be facing teams with different playing styles and that is a challenge our team enjoys. When the draw happens, it energizes our players and brings even more of a focus to our team. We also have the chance to start scouting and preparing for what will be an entertaining and extremely competitive first round.”

The U.S., which heads Group G, opens July 25 against France and meets Colombia on July 28, both matches at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. The Americans wrap up the group stage July 31 against North Korea at Old Trafford, Manchester United's stadium.

The top two teams in each group and two best third-place teams advance to the Aug. 3 quarterfinals. The semifinals are Aug. 6, and the medal matches are Aug. 9, with gold determined at Wembley.

Mexico has one of four seeded men's teams and heads Group B, with South Korea, Gabon and Switzerland. Honduras, CONCACAF's other representative, is in Group D with Spain, Japan and Morocco. The men's tournament begins July 26, the top two in each group advance to the quarterfinals, and the gold-medal match, at Wembley, is Aug. 11.

Here is the result of the draw:

Group E:
Great Britain, New Zealand, Cameroon, Brazil.
Group F: Japan, Canada, Sweden, South Africa.
Group G: United States, France, Colombia, North Korea,

Group A:
Great Britain, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay.
Group B: Mexico, South Korea, Gabon, Switzerland.
Group C: Brazil, Egypt, Belarus, New Zealand.
Group D: Spain, Japan, Honduras, Morocco.

OLYMPICS: Ponce gives Mexico the crown

April, 2, 2012

Mexico heads to the Olympics as CONCACAF's under-23 champion. Honduras goes to London with two players suspended.

That's the upshot from Monday's title game in the region's Olympic qualifying tournament, in which El Tri prevailed, 2-1, on Miguel Angel Ponce's volley late in overtime in Kansas City, Kan.

Marco Fabian de la Mora also scored for Mexico, which rallied from a deficit after Romell Quioto's header gave the Hondurans a 48th-minute lead.

Both sides qualified for the Olympics with semifinal victories Saturday.

Keeping tabs on the road to London:

Mexico fell behind early in the second half, then took over, sending attacking wave after wave at the Honduran defense to net a 75th-minute equalizer and score the winner 26 minutes into overtime.

Quioto gave the Catrachos the advantage by nodding home Alexander Lopez's cross, but they were under heavy pressure the rest of the way. Marco Fabian tied the score with a brilliant blast from 28 yards that bent just inside the right post -- his fifth goal of the tournament -- and Mexico failed to win in regulation when the star forward shot wide with an open shot inside the box in the 83rd minute and his Guadalajara teammate Erick Torres put a looping header off the crossbar in the 86th.

Honduras goalkeeper Jose Mendoza was heroic on several occasions. He required medical attention after appearing to hurt his knee and signaled at least twice to bee substituted off.

Ponce, a Sacramento-born midfielder for Guadalajara, got open at the left post to finish Israel Jimenez's cross from the left flank in the 116th minute. The seven-pass sequence occurred when Mexico failed to return the ball to Honduras, which had knocked it out of bounds so a player could receive medical treatment.

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OLYMPICS: Mexico, Honduras qualify

March, 31, 2012
Mexico and Honduras are headed to the Olympics in men's soccer after winning semifinal showdowns Saturday at CONCACAF's qualifying tournament in Kansas City, Kan.

Gerson Rodas scored twice in overtime as Honduras overcame Central American rival El Salvador, 3-2, in the first game of a doubleheader at Livestrong Sporting Park. Mexico claimed its berth at this summer's London Games with a 3-1 victory over Canada.

Mexico is making its 10th men's soccer appearance at the Olympics but just its second in the last four Olympiads. Honduras has qualified for the third time since 2000.

Keeping tabs on the road to London:

Mexico's class was apparent in a deserved victory over the Canadians, with Guadalajara's Marco Fabian de la Mora scoring his fourth goal of the tournament, UANL Tigres' Alan Pulido netting his fifth and Sacramento-born Miguel Angel Ponce, also from Guadalajara, adding a second-half insurance strike.

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VfB Stuttgart at Borussia Dortmund
ESPN Deportes, 10 a.m.

Three players have had two-goal games -- Martin Harnik, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Vedad Ibisevic -- in a five-game unbeaten streak that has brought seventh-place Stuttgart within a point of the Europa League zone. Extending it to six will take some doing: Dortmund is nearing its second straight title.
Australian A-League
Sydney FC at Wellington Phoenix, Fox Soccer Channel, midnight

FC Dallas at D.C. United
NBC Sports Network, 4:30 p.m.
The Hoops might be 3-0 but for Ricardo Villar's injury and a late collapse in Kansas City. D.C. might be 3-0 but for a scoreless draw at Western Conference-leading Vancouver.

Club Tijuana at Pachuca
Galavision, 7 p.m.
The Xolos didn't expect to see Joe Corona back so soon, but the U.S.'s failed bid for an Olympic berth has its rewards. They're sixth at 5-2-5, and Pachuca is just one spot and three points behind.

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CHIVAS: Villafaņa back after Oly failure

March, 28, 2012
CARSON -- Jorge Villafaņa is trying to keep his mind off what occurred Monday night in Nashville, but he wasn't about to escape so easily back into practice with Chivas USA.

Peter Vagenas, a 2000 Olympian, made sure to give the 22-year-old defender an earful.

During a break in a short-sided drill Wednesday morning at Home Depot Center, the veteran midfielder needled Villafaņa about the United States' failure to advance from group play in CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament. The Americans, with Villafaņa at left back, surrendered a late, late goal in a 3-3 draw with El Salvador that ended their run toward this summer's London Games.

Jorge Villafana
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesChivas USA's Jorge Villafana was part of the U.S. team that suffered a shocking end to its run toward Olympic qualification.

Vagenas brought up El Salvador, and he also mentioned Canada, which beat the U.S., 2-0, on Saturday, exposing the underbelly of a side that, all assumed, was a sure thing to make it to the Olympics.

“I asked him,” Vagenas said afterward, “if they were going to just replay the 2000 Olympic Games [men's soccer matches] during the time slots that were scheduled for them this summer.”

That 2000 team, Vagenas remembers well, was among the most memorable in American Olympic history, winning its group and making a stunning sprint to the semifinals before losses to Spain and Chile left them fourth.

Villafaņa laughed when asked about the stick. “We knew that we were going to get this from everybody,” he said, “but there's not much we can do right now, just focus with Chivas.”

SHEDDING TEARS: Villafaņa has been through a range of emotions the past few days. He was seconds from playing this weekend for a berth in London when Jaime Alas' long-range shot bounced off Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson and into the net, a catastrophic result that prompted heated criticism of the team, of coach Caleb Porter, and of U.S. Soccer -- a sign, at the very least, that American soccer fans and observers are nothing if not passionate.

“Everybody was shocked,” Villafaņa said Wednesday. “We were winning, 3-2, and the last second you get scored, and you're out of the tournament. Everybody was on the ground crying. I don't even know what I was supposed -- it was bad. But soccer's like that, you know.”

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OLYMPICS: Mexico, Honduras are 1-2

March, 27, 2012
CARSON -- Everything went according to plan in the final Group B doubleheader in CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament, with Mexico claiming the top spot, Honduras advancing to winner-takes-all semifinals as the No. 2 side -- and both likely to claim berths for the London Games.

Honduras snared its berth in Saturday's semifinals in Kansas City, Kan., with a by-the-numbers 2-0 triumph over Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday night at Home Depot Center. A victory over El Salvador will send the Catrachos to their third men's soccer tournament in four Olympic games.

It was going to take a miracle to knock Mexico out of the top spot -- El Tri had clinched a semifinal berth Sunday -- and Panama, despite a spirited battle, wasn't going to post the nine-goal win required to do so. It had nearly sewn up a scoreless draw when Guadalajara's Erick Torres, making his first appearance of the tournament, scored in stoppage for a 1-0 victory that thrilled most of the 10,061 in attendance.

Keeping tabs on the road to London:

Honduras and Mexico did what was required and little more.

The Catrachos weren't particularly sharp, but they engineered two scoring plays -- one fortunate, the other precise -- to overcome a game T&T side. Eddie Hernandez and Anthony Lozano assisted each other's goals.

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Barcelona (Spain) at AC Milan (Italy)
Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes, 11:30 a.m.

The finest team in the world (but, curiously, not in Spain) against Italy's best. This is a title-game matchup, not a quarterfinal. Replays: Fox Soccer Plus, 2 p.m.; Fox Deportes, 6 p.m.
Bayern Munich (Germany) at Olympique Marseille (France), Fox Sports West, 11:30 a.m.; Fox Soccer Plus, 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.; Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes, 2 p.m.

Guadalajara (Mexico) at Defensor Sporting (Uruguay)
Fox Deportes, 4 p.m.
Chivas is streaking at home, with five wins in six matches after an 0-5-2 start, and could be en route to the final 16 in South America's club championship. A victory in Montevideo, over a club the Mexicans beat two weeks ago, would put them on target halfway through Group 7 play.
Peņarol (Uruguay) at Universidad de Chile (Chile), Fox Deportes, 5 a.m.
Union Espaņola (Chile) at Universidad Catolica (Chile), Fox Deportes, 11 p.m.
Brazilian Campeonato Paulista
XV de Piracicaba at Corinthians, GolTV, 6 p.m.

Santos Laguna (Mexico) at Toronto FC (Canada)
Fox Soccer Channel and Telefutura (KFTR/Channel 46), 5 p.m.
TFC took down the Galaxy in the quarterfinals, and the Reds are Major League Soccer's last hope in the region's club championship. Victory in the home leg is a must; holding on next week in Torreon would be tough no matter the advantage.
Pumas UNAM (Mexico) at Monterrey (Mexico), Fox Soccer Channel and Telefutura (KFTR/Channel 46), 7 p.m.

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OLYMPICS: No 'guarantee' for Honduras

March, 27, 2012
CARSON -- Honduras will play Saturday for a Olympic berth, and it won't have to go through the United States to get to London.

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesAntony Lozano, left, and Andy Najar, of Honduras celebrate a goal during Tuesday's Olympic qualification game.

The Catrachos claimed their berth in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinals with a 2-0 victory Tuesday night over Trinidad & Tobago at Home Depot Center, and head coach Luis Fernando Suarez said afterward he wasn't surprised his squad will match up with El Salvador, rather than the Americans -- and that he can't guarantee a victory.

What he does guarantee might be more important.

Saturday's winner-take-all showdown with the Salvadorans in Kansas City, Kan., “is the game that will qualify us for the Olympic Games, so in that sense it is the most important,” said Suarez, also Honduras' full national team coach. “But you have to value everything that the team has done before then. This is a great group with excellent players, they have good chemistry, and they have been qualifying for [youth] World Cups and other tournaments up to this point.

“For the short-term, it would be great to qualify for the Olympics. I'm not guaranteeing we will qualify, but I am guaranteeing that we are in good shape for the next two World Cup [cycles], for this one and for whoever is in charge [during qualifying for the 2018 tournament].”

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GALAXY: Olympic loss a 'black mark'

March, 27, 2012

USA, El SalvadorFrederick Breedon/Getty ImagesThe Galaxy's Michael Stephens, right, came on as a late sub in Monday's U.S. game vs. El Salvador

CARSON -- Michael Stephens is expected to be back on the training field Thursday with the Galaxy, and his teammates know it's not where he wants to be.

Stephens was a late substitute in the United States' devastating defeat in an Olympic qualifier Monday night, sent on to help kill off the game. Instead, the Americans surrendered a goal more than four minutes into stoppage, and a 3-3 draw with El Salvador eliminated them from contention for this summer's London Games.

“It's disappointing for everyone,” defender Todd Dunivant said following the Galaxy's practice Tuesday morning at Home Depot Center. “Shows you can't take those things for granted.”

Stephens, a former UCLA star, had not played in the U.S. under-23 national team's first two group games in Nashville. He came on for Joe Corona in the 88th minute of the Group A finale in CONCACAF's qualifying tournament.

“I would have loved for Mikey to play in the Olympics,” said midfielder Mike Magee, who watched the game on television. “That was no way to leave the tournament. It was definitely frustrating when that last goal went in.”

The defeat's larger meaning -- and who deserves blame for the Americans' unexpected failure -- was debated Tuesday across the American soccer landscape. Dunivant and Magee noted that missing the Olympics is not the same as missing a World Cup, for which the U.S. last failed to qualify in 1986.

“I don't think anyone feels devastated,” Magee said. “Obviously, it's not what you want, but the main thing for soccer is definitely the World Cup. We want our young players to do better, and we want to go through [to the finals] at every level, but at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter in terms of the sport in our country.”

Dunivant saw another side.

“Ask any of those guys who were on that field whether this was a big deal or not,” he said. “Those guys had a chance to be in the Olympics, and how many athletes have said they've done that. Any of us would want that. Is it the end of the world? No. But it's certainly a black mark on U.S. soccer right now.”

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Bolton at Tottenham
Fox Soccer Plus, 11:25 a.m.

Fabrice Muamba's collapse in cardiac arrest halted this quarterfinal, and the soccer world came together in support of the 23-year-old Bolton midfielder. His improvement has been rapid, and the replay is set for White Hart Lane. Replay: 7 p.m.
Everton at Sunderland, Fox Soccer Plus, 1:30 and 5 p.m.

Real Madrid (Spain) at APOEL (Cyprus)
Fox Sports West and Fox Deportes, 11:30 a.m.

Real Madrid, one of the world's three or four biggest clubs, takes on Cyprus' best club, the surprise of the tournament after winning its group and knocking off Lyon in the round of 16. First-leg success is a must if the Nicosia-based Greeks are to have a chance for the final four. Replays: Fox Soccer Channel, 2 and 8:30 p.m.; Fox Deportes, 4 p.m.
Chelsea (England) at Benfica (Portugal), Fox Soccer Channel, 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.; Fox Deportes, 2 and 6 p.m.; Fox Soccer Plus, 10:30 p.m.; Fox Sports West, 11:30 p.m.

Mexico vs. Panama
Telemundo (KVEA/Channel 52), 8:30 p.m.

Mexico has already booked its spot in the semifinals -- and probably nailed down the Group B title, too -- but a victory in the group finale provides momentum in a showdown against U.S. (probably) for an Olympic berth.
Honduras vs. Trinidad & Tobago, Mun2, 6 p.m.
Copa Libertadores
Alianza Lima (Peru) at Nacional (Uruguay), Fox Deportes, 10 p.m.
Nacional (Paraguay) at Deportivo Tachira (Venzuela), Fox Deportes, midnight

Group B doubleheader
Home Depot Center (Carson), 6 p.m.

The first stage of the qualifiers come to an end, with three teams -- Honduras, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago -- battling for the group's final semifinal spot. The Hondurans, who take on T&T in the opener, have the best shot at it, but Panama could sneak through with an upset of Mexico in the 8:30 finale.

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OLYMPICS: Devastating end for U.S.

March, 26, 2012

Dramatic finishes first dangled and then jerked away from the U.S. a trip to the London Olympics on a devastating evening for American soccer.

The Americans' under-23 national team rallied from a second-half deficit against El Salvador in the Group A finale and stood just seconds from the victory required to advance to CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying semifinals when a long-range shot -- and another goalkeeping miscue -- forged a 3-3 draw that ended U.S. hopes.

Jaime Alas' 30-yard blast more than four minutes into stoppage bounced off prematurely diving Sean Johnson and into the net Monday night in Nashville, Tenn., giving El Salvador (1-0-2) the group title and a March 31 semifinal showdown with the No. 2 team from Group B -- Honduras is expected -- for one of the region's two berths at this summer's London Games.

Canada (1-0-2), which on Saturday beat the U.S., 2-0, claimed A's other final-four berth with a 1-1 draw against Cuba and likely will face Mexico for an Olympic berth.

Keeping tabs on the road to London:

The U.S. (1-1-1), an overwhelming favorite to join Mexico in the 16-team London field, failed to qualify for the second time in three Olympics as a revived attack -- Philadelphia's Freddy Adu, FC Dallas' Brek Shea and German-born Terrence Boyd the instigators -- could not overcome subpar defending nor poor management by coach Caleb Porter.

The day had held so much promise. The Americans, expecting a winner-takes-all semifinal against Mexico should they win, were given a different path to London when Cuba's Maykel Reyes scored in the 91st minute to pull even with Canada. A victory would give the U.S. the top spot in Group A and prevent, almost certainly, the need to beat Mexico for an Olympic berth.

Then Boyd, a Borussia Dortmund forward, scored after 59 seconds. Things could be going no better.

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