That is the only real way to describe it. This was another complete, total and undeniable failure.
For the third consecutive qualifying cycle, the US Under-23 men’s national team capitulated with an Olympic spot up for grabs.
Another year, another catastrophe and this one will hurt as much as the previous ones.
This time, it was a 2-1 loss to Honduras that turned out to be the demise of the United States, the latest devastating blow in what has become a long line of them.
This show fell short again, with another epic crash at the worst possible time.
The details behind that collapse are complex. There are reasons to explain it, some valid and some not. But those reasons are not important in this scenario.
What matters is that even with the US in the midst of a budding golden generation proving its worth in Europe, they are still struggling to take over business in their own backyard when it really counts.
“Obviously, we are devastated, absolutely devastated in the locker room,” said head coach Jason Kreis. “It’s like a tragedy.
“We all wanted this so much for many different reasons, and I think it could be that sometimes when you want it too much, you put yourself in a position where you can’t perform at the level you need.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think we had enough.”
The United States certainly didn’t have enough on Sunday, with Honduras deserved winners more than earning their own Olympic spot. They booked their ticket to Tokyo frustrating an American team that lacked not only the quality to open the game but, at times, the attitude.
Throughout Sunday’s game, the United States was slow and lethargic. Even as the odds began to stack against him, only a few players, namely Captain Jackson Yueill, really came close to the moment as they tried to end years and years of anguish at this level.
In the end, that did not happen.
It started moments before the break, with just a few seconds remaining in what was a warm and slow first half. Suddenly, however, the ball was in the back of the US net, sent home by Juan Carlos Obregón Jr.
That, however, was just the opening act of what turned out to be the true soul-crushing mistake.
Goalkeeper David Ochoa, arguably the best player on the team throughout this tournament, made his first real mistake at the worst possible time.
With the ball at his feet, Ochoa’s attempt to play from behind quickly turned into a disaster when the ‘keeper broke a pass in front of Honduran Luis Palma and directly into the back of his own goal just moments into the second half.
From there, there were moments that provided hope, including Yueill’s long-term goal. But that turned out to be a small consolation from a calamitous day for a team that just couldn’t do it.
Because of that, there will be a lot of red flags in the wake of another qualifying mess.
The blame will fall on Kreis, whose decision to leave behind players like Jeremy Ebobisse and Eryk Williamson has grown worse by the day. The USA head coach will also receive criticism for his tactic, as Kreis’s attempt to put square pegs into round holes certainly contributed to this result.
The blame will also fall on the players, who simply couldn’t step up and fight back at a time when they had no other choice. Apart from a good part against the Dominican Republic, this USA team just never seemed to have the quality or creativity to take down even the average opposition.
And of course, the blame will lie with the circumstances, as Team USA fell short by a combination of commitments from USMNT and clubs that are unwilling to release players for this event.
The United States had 15 players eligible for the Olympics from the USMNT camp in Belfast, with two others, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, among whom would have been there in normal times.
But in the end, the blame can spread in each and every direction, and for good reason. This was a failure of the entire program. Other.
“I look at myself first and foremost,” Kreis said, “and I think about the decisions that were made about the squad, in the form of the players that were coming in, the players that weren’t here, of course. know something about me know that I first point to myself.
“Having said that, it’s a collective effort. It wasn’t just me who made those decisions, but I’m more than willing and able to take most of the blame.”
This was a missed opportunity. It was an opportunity for the young players to earn a place on the big stage. It was an opportunity for the USA program to reassert itself as a CONCACAF powerhouse after the failures of previous Olympic cycles and, most recently, the 2018 World Cup qualifying race.
Perhaps most importantly, this was an opportunity to show that things were moving forward, a chance to regain some of the public’s confidence in an Olympic competition that even the most casual American fan will care.
The USA program will advance rapidly, especially with the World Cup qualifiers on the horizon. Brighter days are ahead, and this mess does little to dampen the excitement surrounding the USMNT and all the bright young stars currently emerging overseas.
Until then, however, this will hurt as the value of another player cycle fell short.
“Ultimately, I have a very strong feeling that there are extremely good players with extremely high potential in that room,” Kreis said. “There are young players and they need to keep developing, keep learning, keep moving forward.
“It’s a fact of life that you lose more than you gain. And it will always be about who gets up and moves faster, because these disappointments happen in your life over and over again. You have no choice but to move on, and I hope. let these players do it. “
Someday, perhaps, Kreis’s adage will be proven wrong. Someday, the United States may turn these painful defeats into victories most of the time.
But that day wasn’t Sunday, and the team’s Olympic dream died because of it.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.