After a lethargic first half, the U-23 U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) experienced an awakening in their locker room during halftime and returned the pitch with fury and impetus to defeat the Dominican Republic 4-0 on Sunday, March 21.
The win assured that the youth-filled USMNT a berth in the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying semifinals.
The Dominican Republic started the match with six teenagers. To their credit, they stifled the Yanks attack during the first 45 minutes of play. Whatever message head coach Jason Kreis delivered to USMNT during half-time was heard loud and clear. When coupled with key substitutes that were inserted in the second half, a feeble U.S. offense turned forceful as Jackson Yueill (61’), Hassani Dotson, and Djordje Mihailovic found the back of the net in the final 30 minutes of the game.
Just as importantly, the victory secured a position in next Sunday’s do-or-die semifinals against a still-to-be-determined opponent from the tournament’s Group B table. The two semifinal winners earn berths in the Japan Olympics.
The U.S. has missed three of its last four opportunities to advance to the Summer Games.
Kreis once again turned to Colorado Rapids’ Sam Vines and Jonathan Lewis to start the match. Lewis hustled, muscled, and tussled during his 69 minutes of play, while Vines played his per usual forward-back and crossing game. He volleyed, floated, and threaded several dangerous balls into the Los Quisqueyanos’s box. In the 77th minute, he started a series of passes from the edge of the box that led to the third goal of the match, and the second for his teammate, Hassani Dotson.
ANOTHER ONE! Hassani Dotson gets his second and the USYNT's third pic.twitter.com/UuebzwSbWC— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 22, 2021
Team USA will face arch-rivals Mexico on Wednesday, March 24, at altitude in Guadalajara. The in-sync, able-bodied El Tri is coming off of a 3-0 win over Costa Rica. With the win, they also clinched a spot in the semifinals. Mexico has outscored their opponents 7-1 in the tournament.
Jason Kreis and his assistants will have two and days to review the results of his team’s first matches and decide which combination of players are best suited to face-off with Mexico. With only two full games under their collective belt, this version of Team USA is still a work in progress.
The U.S. match against Mexico is for high-stakes pride and joy. Nothing more. A canny Kreis is already contemplating his line-up, strategies, and tactics for the must-win semifinal game.