The U-23 MNT’s Olympic Playoff series against Colombia for the final spot at the 2016 Olympic Games presents a second chance for many on the 22-man roster.
The USA was on its way to clinching a berth in Rio last October, winning its three first-round games in the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship by a 13-2 margin. However, the team fell in the semifinals to Honduras, and with it missing out on the direct qualification. The group bounced back and won the third-place match against Canada to earn a place in the playoff.
“I think each and everyone knows that the Olympics is something we would hate to miss. There’s something special about it,” said U-23 and Columbus Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp, who captained the group last fall. “And if it’s two games – one in Barranquilla and one in Dallas – those are the steps we have to take. Mentally preparing for that, you don’t want to psych yourself out with the pressure of the moment. They’ll be difficult games, for sure, but we believe in ourselves and the focus is on getting a result in Barranquilla and then getting a result here in the States. It’s a 180-minute performance, it’s not just 90 minutes.”
I wouldn’t call it pressure," said midfielder Wil Trapp. There is pressure there but we as player don’t read into it as ‘we need to do this,’ in terms of making up for 2012. I think we look at it as ‘we need to do this because we want to, and we owe it to ourselves, U.S. Soccer, and this group of players currently.”
Trapp is one of 12 players on the Olympic Playoff roster who return from the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament. The group will begin gathering in Miami, Florida on Sunday and train for three days before flying to Barranquilla on Wednesday. The away leg will take place on Friday, March 25 at Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez in Barranquilla, Colombia, at 4 p.m. local (5 p.m. ET, live on FS1).
The return leg will be played on March 29 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on ESPN2, following the U.S. MNT’s World Cup Qualifying match against Guatemala at 6 p.m. CT. [TICKETS]
“We know it’s going to be a difficult challenge for us, especially going down there in the first leg,” said forward Jordan Morris, who scored three goals and added four assists in qualifying. “We know we have to come out of that with somewhat of a decent result. The atmosphere down there is going to be tough. I’m sure it’ll be warm and there will be Colombian fans yelling in our face. But it’s our mindset that we all want to go to the Olympics. It’s a childhood dream we all watched growing up, and we’re two games away now. So we all know that if we put all of our focus into these two games we can accomplish something very special. I think that’s the general consensus we’ve come up with – we all want it really bad, and we’re going to go out there and try and show the world and our country what we’re made of.”