|Jorge Villafana of the U.S. leaves the field as the Canadians celebrate in the background. (AP)|
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- So much for the domination U.S. coach Caleb Porter wanted out of the Americans.
Doneil Henry and Lucas Cavallini each scored goals as Canada beat the United States 2-0 Saturday night for its first win over the Americans since 1992 in the CONCACAF men's Olympic qualifying tournament.
Now the Americans must beat El Salvador on Monday night to advance to the semifinals in Kansas City, Kan., or miss out on an Olympic qualifying berth for the first time since 2004 and only the second since 1976.
"This isn't the end of the world," said Porter who came in talking of winning all three games in this round-robin Group A tournament. "This is not the way we wanted it to play out. But everything is still in our hands. We beat El Salvador, and then we're through."
Even a win could put the U.S. Under-23 team playing Mexico in the semifinals, the team that eliminated the Americans 4-0 in 2004. Not advancing to the semifinals would follow the Americans failing to qualify last year for the Under-20 World Cup.
Porter downplayed this loss.
"It's abnormal to be through in the first two games on six points, so in some ways this is more atypical going into the third game," Porter said. "This is the game that decides our destiny."
A win against Canada would have clinched the Americans a berth in the semifinals on March 31 where those winners qualify for the London games. Instead, they now must beat El Salvador, a 4-0 winner over Cuba earlier Saturday, on Monday night to advance. Canada will play winless Cuba in the other game.
"Obviously, we're not happy about today, but nothing we can do but go win the next game to get through to the semis," midfielder Brek Shea said.
The Americans came in 4-1-2 all-time against Canada in this tournament, but the Canadians finished with a win big enough coach Tony Fonseca said may wake up folks at home. Philippe Davies, who had assists on both goals, said not many people believed in them in this game.
"Being in America and we go there and beat them 2-0, it's great," Davies said. "We weren't afraid to play, we went at them, we created some chances. We had a really good second half."
The Canadians played a scoreless tie against El Salvador to open this tournament, and they stayed just as strong defensively against the Americans by stacking what Porter called a "Christmas tree" in the middle with a 4-3-2-1 alignment. Fonseca also had a fresh lineup using seven new players, saying he brought 20 players into the game.
"And I'm going to use them," Fonseca said.
Porter said that alignment basically is used to shut down a team, and his squad couldn't convert off passes when they had their chances.
Henry headed the ball off a corner kick in the 58th minute, and Cavallini scored off a diving header in the 83rd minute for a 2-0 lead.
The U.S. squad played without Juan Agudelo, who U.S. Soccer officials announced before the game tore cartilage in his left knee in Thursday night's 6-0 win over Cuba and the forward will rejoin the New York Red Bulls on Sunday with team doctors figuring out a recovery timetable. Agudelo, who scored a goal Thursday night, watched from the bench.
Porter will not be able to replace Agudelo on the roster since the Americans still have 19 players available and must get to 18 before an injury replacement is allowed.
Teal Bunbury, whose father played for the Canadian national team, got the start along with Jorge Villafana as they replaced Kofi Sarkodie and Agudelo.
The teams played to a scoreless first half, and Porter substituted Joe Gyau for Joe Corona, who had three goals in Thursday night's 6-0 win over Cuba. Terrence Boyd substituted for Bunbury in the 56th minute.
The Americans thought they had gone ahead in the 48th minute when Ike Opara headed a Freddy Adu free kick into the goal. But Opara was called offsides.
Porter said the Americans never really got into rhythm and created most of their chances when they went wide and ran in. The U.S. did have a 10-9 edge on Canada on goal attempts, though Canada had a 5-4 difference in shots on target. Porter said the U.S. needed that first goal.
"It played out perfect for them to get the first goal on a set piece. Now they can sit it even more," Porter said.
"We get the first goal, they open up, the whole game's different. We had looks in the first half to get the first goal, we had looks in the second half to get the first goal. But we just didn't find it. We've all seen this game a thousand times where a team sits in, pinches a goal and hangs on."
They had a great chance to tie it up when Villafana found Adu for a kick on goal only to have keeper Michal Misiewicz deflect it and smother the ball. After the referee gave a yellow card to Canadian Andres Fresenga for wasting time on the ground in the 66th minute, the U.S. had another chance. But Shea's kick banged off the side of the net.
Randy Edwini-Bonsu had a chance in the 55th minute and kicked the ball over the net, and the Canadians finally scored in the 58th minute. Davies had the corner kick, and Henry jumped up in the crowd and headed the ball into the corner of the net.
"I just made a mistake on the first one," U.S. keeper Bill Hamid said. "Mistakes happen, and we need to move forward. I'm not sure if I slipped, or a push or something on the second one. But at the end of the day we just can't give anything on set pieces."
Then the Canadians scored again off a set piece. Then Russell Teibert sent a corner kick to Davies, who redirected it to Cavallini for a 2-0 lead.
Adu was wide on a free kick late, and not even four minutes of stoppage time gave the Americans enough time to score. Edwini-Bonsu did pick up a red card just before the end of the game after he had gone to the bench.