U23: USA vs. Colombia – The Pressure is On

The U23 players stand at attention for the playing of the National Anthems. Photo: Sis Connors

Tuesday will be the defining game for both Colombia’s and USA’s U23 national teams. Neither team has appeared in the Olympic Games in years.

This past Friday, the Colombian U23 National Team kicked off their first of a two-game match up against the U23 United States National Team to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Game time was scheduled for 3:30 pm with temperatures in the low 90s making the heat index right about 100. As the seats began to fill, it became apparent that the game was not going to start on time. This may have helped the Americans beat the heat a bit even though the game was only delayed about a half hour.

The game began as a relaxed, almost friendly match. However, that quickly changed as the U.S. took the lead in the first five minutes scoring early. From there, the pressure was on both teams. The Colombians had many shots on goal but just could not get the ball in. Tensions flared as the U.S. goalkeeper, Ethan Horvath, went down after a header that ended in a collision. He was on the ground for several minutes with the clock still ticking. The Colombian players wanted to get the game moving because the clock was being run down and the crowd was getting restless and rowdy. At one point you could hear the Colombians in the crowd yelling, in English, “Take him out; get him off the field!” Horvath did not come out of the game at that point and play resumed. He did come out a little later though. The Americans were not running the field; they were playing a defensive passing game. The Colombians had multiple shots on goal after Cody Cropper came in as the new goalkeeper, but still couldn’t get the target. The first half ended with the U.S. up one to zero.

As the second half started most of the field was in the shade, and both teams came back out to play. The Colombians had possession of the ball most of the second half; the Americans still were not running. The tensions in the crowd were high. The Colombian fans were putting pressure on their beloved team and the referees, while the few American fans that peppered the stands in their red, white and blue in a sea of yellow were still standing (or sitting) proudly with their team on top. The crowd went crazy chanting “Colombia! Colombia! Colombia!” as Rafael Borre was taken down in the box resulting in a free kick. Juan Quintero was able to get the ball in easily. The crowd went crazy yelling, “Yes We Can!” With the game now tied, the Colombian team kept the pressure on the U.S. forcing them to help defend their goal time after time. When the whistle blew, the game came to a close ending in a draw.

At this point, either team can still qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio. Come Tuesday we will see the U.S. play in front of their fans with home field advantage. The Colombian team will no longer have their lively fans cheering them along the way, at least not in the thousands as they did on Friday night.