Los Angeles Soccer: CONCACAF Olympic qualifying

OLYMPICS: Ponce gives Mexico the crown

April, 2, 2012
4/02/12
10:39
PM PT

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:
  • WHAT HAPPENED?

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.

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Mexico, Honduras qualify

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
9:32
PM PT
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:
  • WHAT HAPPENED?

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.

(Read full post)

CHIVAS: Villafaņa back after Oly failure

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
11:21
PM PT
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.”

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Mexico, Honduras are 1-2

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
11:47
PM PT
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:
  • WHAT HAPPENED?

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.

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: No 'guarantee' for Honduras

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
9:42
PM PT
CARSON -- Honduras will play Saturday for a Olympic berth, and it won't have to go through the United States to get to London.

Honduras
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].”

(Read full post)

GALAXY: Olympic loss a 'black mark'

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
8:34
PM PT

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.”

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Devastating end for U.S.

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
9:56
PM PT

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:
  • WHAT HAPPENED?

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.

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Matchups are no concern

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
10:58
AM PT

CARSON -- Mexico's plan to qualify for the London Olympics is simple: beat everybody. That would certainly do it, and if El Tri's path grew more strenuous with Canada's upset of the U.S., well, no problem.


That was Luis Fernando Tena's take after Mexico overwhelmed Honduras, 3-0, Sunday afternoon at Home Depot Center, becoming the first of the region's under-23 national teams to clinch a final-four berth in CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament.

“We're well aware this will mean nothing if we don't win [in the semifinals in Kansas City, Kan.] on Saturday the 31st,” said Tena, Mexico's head coach. “We haven't won anything. We have advanced, and whomever we play, we'll always try to win, of course.”

El Tri, which didn't get out of the group stage in a grand failure four years ago, can't claim Group B's top spot until Tuesday's first-stage finale against Panama, but even an unexpected tumble probably wouldn't knock them out of first place.

This is where Mexico was expected to be, but Canada's 2-0 victory Friday night in Nashville, Tenn., twisted everything: The U.S., with a win Monday over El Salvador, probably would finish second in Group A. The Americans and Mexicans were both expected to make it to London; now they'll probably face off for one of CONCACAF's two berths.

“Yeah, I know -- everybody is asking the same question,” said Guadalajara's Miguel Angel Ponce, who was born in Sacramento. “It really doesn't matter if it's USA or no. We have to keep showing what we've done, and we can beat them.”

The U.S. impressively won a Feb. 29 friendly against the Mexicans in Frisco, Texas, but they followed Thursday's 6-0 rout of Cuba with a poor performance at both ends against the Canadians and have not looked nearly as sharp nor as dangerous as has Mexico. El Tri has more top-flight experience and, with New York Red Bulls star Juan Agudelo out -- he'll undergo surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus -- a more dynamic attack.

Beating Canada, which will win Group A with a victory Monday over the winless, goalless, hapless Cubans, is a far simpler task, but Mexico wasn't about to maneuver for the better matchup.

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Mexico books K.C. trip

March, 25, 2012
3/25/12
6:53
PM PT

CARSON -- Alan Pulido picked up where Marco Fabian de la Mora left off, scoring a hat trick to lead Mexico's under-23 national team into the semifinals of CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament.


A victory March 31 in Kansas City, Kan. -- likely against the United States -- sends El Tri to London.

Pulido tallied in the 13th and 40th minutes, then netted a third just 41 seconds into the second half as Mexico (2-0-0) routed Honduras, 3-0, Sunday in front of 16,184 cold, wet fans at Home Depot Center to assume command of the Group B race with one last set of doubleheaders remaining.

Panama and Trinidad & Tobago drew, 1-1, in the opener, keeping alive their diminishing hopes to advance.

Keeping tabs on the road to London:
  • WHAT HAPPENED?

Pulido, from UANL Tigres, scored two superb individual goals in the first half, then first-timed a cross from Cruz Azul's Javier Aquino following Monterrey defender Hiram Mier's long ball up the right flank as Mexico, sharp and explosive, dominated its stiffest group rival.


The victory should be enough to give El Tri the B title -- their goal difference, at plus-9, is too much for Hondurans (1-1-0, with a minus-1 difference) to overcome, even with a lopsided win over Trinidad & Tobago in Tuesday's opener -- and that likely means a showdown with the U.S. (1-1-0), which after Saturday's shocking loss to Canada needs to beat El Salvador (1-0-1) in the Group A finale to ensure a final four berth.

Neither Mexico nor Honduras would relish a winner-takes-all clash with the Americans, but El Tri's form -- and the U.S.'s loss of star striker Juan Agudelo -- makes them a substantial favorite if that's the way things play out.

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Stunning Canada sinks U.S.

March, 24, 2012
3/24/12
9:01
PM PT

Lucas CavalliniAP Photo/Mark HumphreyLucas Cavallini, left, and Doneil Henry celebrate one of Canada's goals against the U.S.


The bad news arrived for the U.S. under-23 national team before kickoff, and it just got worse. And now the Americans' qualification for this summer's London Olympics is in doubt.

U.S. Soccer announced before the game that star forward Juan Agudelo had suffered a torn meniscus and was returning to the New York Red Bulls for rehab. The team responded with a listless performance against Canada, marked by criminal defensive work on two set pieces that irretrievably altered CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament.

The expected outcome -- that the Americans and Mexico would be the region's representatives in London -- appears almost certainly dead.

Canada tallied twice off corner kicks for a stunning 2-0 victory Saturday in Nashville, and it can win the Group A title with an expected victory Monday over last-place Cuba, a 4-0 loser to El Salvador.

The U.S. needs a victory over the Salvadorans to finish second, which likely would set up a clash with Mexico with an Olympic berth on the line. Form (and Agudelo's absence) suggests the Americans would struggle in such a matchup; one of two upsets -- Cuba over Canada or, Sunday at Home Depot Center, Honduras over Mexico -- would be necessary to avoid the showdown.

Only the semifinal winners March 31 in Kansas City, Kan., qualify for the Olympics.

Keeping tabs on the road to London:

  • WHAT HAPPENED?

The Americans lacked spark, were outbattled and fell apart defensively, and that was enough for Canada to claim a deserved triumph.

Both goals came from corner kicks on which D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid's shortcomings were key.

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Ailing Tri look to avoid U.S.

March, 24, 2012
3/24/12
4:48
PM PT
CARSON -- Luis Fernando Tena fęted Mexico's one-sided victory in its Olympic qualifying opener by surveying his squad to see who might be available for game two.

Four Mexicans limped off with injuries during a 7-1 dismantling of Trinidad & Tobago in a Group B opener Friday night, and that's not going to help in Sunday afternoon's showdown with Honduras at Home Depot Center.

The Hondurans also won their opener and have a team, Tena noted before the tournament kicked off, that's capable of winning the group and claiming one of CONCACAF's two berths in the men's soccer event at this summer's London Olympics.

“The team played well,” Tena acknowledged after El Tri's under-23 national team, filled with Primera Division standouts, dominated every phase of the match with T&T, opening up huge advantages in shots (35-7), shots on goal (15-2), corner kicks (14-2) and, most important, goals, behind Guadalajara star Marco Fabian de la Mora's hat trick. “We had good possession, a good situation. A lot of times we were unable to finish, but we attacked well.”

Unfortunately, Mexico also dominated in players injured. T&T goalkeeper Andre Marchan, without whom the scoreline might have been 15-1, suffered a mild concussion when Toluca's Nestor Calderon, frantically chasing a ball with a 5-0 lead, leapt high in the air and kicked him in the head.

Calderon, perhaps justly, was hurt when he landed, although Tena did not identify the injury nor its extent. Three other midfielders -- Pumas UNAM's David Cabrera and Javier Cortes and Cruz Azul's Javier Aquino -- also “suffered knocks,” as Tena put it, and their statuses also are unknown.

“Unfortunately, we did have a lot of knocks,” Tena said. “That's going to make us wait until the last minute to see who we can count on [Sunday]. Honduras is obviously the toughest opponent in the group. The game will be very different from today's.”

Tena admitted the injuries “make us worry and leave us with a bitter taste.”

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Mexico, Honduras set showdown

March, 23, 2012
3/23/12
11:16
PM PT

Mexico celebratesStephen Dunn/Getty Images)Mexico celebrates one of its seven goals Friday night at Home Depot Center.


CARSON -- Honduras needed a half to find its game. Mexico was on the accelerator from the start. Both posted impressive victories Friday night in CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers at Home Depot Center to set up a showdown Sunday afternoon, likely for the Group B title.

The Hondurans' under-23 national team used a goal early in the second half to take command and another near the finish to nail down a 3-1 triumph over Panama in the opener. Marco Fabian de la Mora had a hat trick and played a crucial role on another strike as Mexico buried Trinidad & Tobago, 7-1, in the nightcap.

Keeping tabs on the road to London:

  • WHAT HAPPENED?

How good is Mexico? It bettered United States' six-goal start in the region's qualifying tournament for this summer's London Olympics, and it could have been far, far worse.

Mexico spent the entire match in and around the Soca Warriors' box, scored three brilliant goals and might have had another half-dozen or more if not for the efforts of T&T goalkeeper Andre Marchan and center back Daneil Cyrus.

Marco Fabian, the biggest name on El Tri's roster, and Sacramento-born winger Miguel Angel Ponce spearheaded a vibrant attack that expertly and repeatedly maneuvered through T&T's defense, hammering 35 shots. With better fortune, Mexico might have scored 15.

Marco Fabian enabled Alan Pulido's opener by getting in Marchan's path for a flicked-on corner kick, then doubled the advantage with a powerful header from Guadalajara teammate Ponce's superb cross from the left wing.

El Tri added five in the second half, the best Marco Fabian's precise finish from the top of the box in the 69th minute and Israel Jimenez's 30-yard free kick in the 74th. They padded their lead with three goals from the 85th minute.

The opener wasn't nearly as entertaining, but the match was far more important, likely determining the side that will advance to the semifinals along with Mexico. The Hondurans were worthy winners, taking charge once they began stringing passes after halftime.

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Simple task for Mexico?

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
11:03
PM PT

Marco FabianDaniel Cardenas/Getty ImagesMarco Fabiain, who plays for Chivas Guadalajara, will be key to Mexico's Olympic qualifying bid.


CARSON -- The Ghost of Olympic Qualifiers Past haunts Mexico, so to speak, only when the media is around. And so it was Thursday, when Luis Fernando Tena, head coach of El Tri's under-23 national team, was greeted by cameras and tape recorders in a room deep in the bowels of Home Depot Center.

Mexico has failed to qualify for two of the past three Olympic Games' men's soccer tournaments, shockingly so just four years ago, and so the pressure has been amped considerably for this CONCACAF qualifying tournament.

Tena, whose team opens Group B play in the nightcap of a doubleheader Friday night at HDC, tries not to take notice.

“This 'ghost' arrives only when you ask about it,” Tena said in response to a question during a 15-minute news conference. “We don't pay a lot of attention to it. We're aware of history, of what happened four years ago, but a lot has changed. Four years is a long time in soccer. We want to focus on now and what this tournament is.”

This tournament, which kicked off Thursday night in Nashville, will determine the region's two entrants for men's soccer at this summer's London Games. Mexico, along with the U.S., is expected to snag one of the berths, and the roster Tena and full national team coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre has put together appears can't-miss.

All but one of 20 El Tri players is in the Mexican Primera Division -- CONCACAF's best league, hands down -- and most of them play key roles for big clubs. More than half have played for the national team. There are a few big stars (Guadalajara's Marco Fabian de la Mora is the name to remember) and major up-and-comers (Guadalajara's Erick Torres has drawn “Chicharito” comparisons).

And Mexican soccer, riding a golden generation that just might contend for a World Cup title in a couple of years -- no, really -- has unprecedented confidence.

It might not be enough. Tena, whose coaching career has included stints in charge at America, Cruz Azul, Morelia and Santos Laguna, already has tipped Honduras to win the group, a little psychology at play, perhaps, but a popular pick. The Catrachos have played in two of the last three Olympics, joining the U.S. at the 2000 Games in Sydney and four years ago in Beijing.

Panama, which faces Honduras in Friday's 6 p.m. opener, has four players from its semifinal team at last year's Gold Cup, CONCACAF's nation's championship. Trinidad & Tobago, the Caribbean's top team, faces Mexico at 8:30.

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Corona leads U.S. romp

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
8:48
PM PT
Joe Corona's hat trick led the United States' under-23 national team sprinted to an easy victory in its opener in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, and Canada held on for a draw with El Salvador in the other Group A game.

Keeping tabs on the road to London:

    Joe Corona
    AP Photo/Mark HumphreyJoe Corona had a big game to lead the U.S.'s rout of Cuba.

  • WHAT HAPPENED?

Corona, who chose to play for the U.S. after attending a camp with Mexico's pre-Olympic team, scored three goals as the Americans grabbed a four-goal lead by halftime en route to a 6-0 rout of Cuba in Nashville.

Corona, who was born in Los Angeles, raised in San Diego and plays for Club Tijuana in Mexico's Primera Division, tallied in the 11th (volley after a chest trap), 40th (one-time finish inside the right post) and 88th (inside the left post after two 1-2s with Mix Diskerud) to send the U.S. atop Group A.

New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo, with a can't-miss header, and Philadelphia Union midfielder Freddy Adu, with a forceful blast, also scored goals, and FC Dallas winger Brek Shea was a force on the left flank, setting up the second and third strikes for the U.S.

(Read full post)

OLYMPICS: Mexico bring loaded side

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
7:00
AM PT

CARSON -- The rosters for CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament are finally out, and just in time: Group A, which includes the United States, kicks off this afternoon in Nashville, Tenn.


We're concerned more with Group B in these parts. Mexico, with a dynamic side starring rising Guadalajara stars Erick Torres and Marco Fabian de la Mora, is the marquee team at Home Depot Center, where the first of three under-23 doubleheaders is slated for Friday night.

Mexico's roster is filled with Primera Division talent: 14 of the 22 players on El Tri's roster are regular starters in the country's top league, and several -- Marco Fabian, Toluca midfielder Nestor Calderon, Pumas UNAM midfielder Javier Cortes, Monterrey defender Darvin Chavez and UANL Tigres defender Israel Jimenez -- are downright veterans. A dozen have seen time with Mexico's full national team, and a half-dozen played for Mexico's U-20 team at last year's World Cup.

Calderon, who turned 23 last month, has been a first-choice player for Toluca since 2008 and has scored 22 goals in 133 Primera Division games. Marco Fabian netted 17 goals in last two tournaments and has 27 in 123 games for Guadalajara.

One Amercan-born player on the roster, too: Guadalajara's Miguel Angel Ponce, a Sacramento-born, Tijuana-raised left back who played in San Ysidro during his development.

Mexico is looking to qualify as simply as possible after its stunning failure to advance from group play in the Beijing qualifiers four years ago.

The top two teams advance to this summer's London Games, and the U.S. -- which has 14 MLS players, five from Europe and Club Tijuana's Joe Corona -- and Mexico are expected to fill the slots.

Honduras, which includes D.C. United's Andy Najar, the 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year, figures to test Mexico in Group B. The teams meet in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader. Panama, also in Group B, features four players from the Gold Cup semifinalists last summer.

El Salvador, in Group A, includes Panorama City's Richard Menjivar (Monroe HS), a senior last fall at Cal State Bakersfield. He played for the U.S. under-18 national team in 2008.

Here are the rosters for the Group B teams:

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES