New England Soccer Today

Music City Meltdown

El Salvador’s Jaime Alas scored a last-gasp equalizer in stoppage time to eliminate the United States from Olympic qualifying during Monday’s drama-filled 3-3 draw at LP Field in Nashville.

The U.S. found goals from Terrence Boyd (2′, 65′) and Joe Corona (68′), but it wasn’t enough to overcome the strikes of Alas, Mark Blanco (35′) and Andres Flores (37′) as the U.S. will be forced to watch the Olympic tournament from afar for only the third time since 1976.

Meanwhile, El Slavador wins Group A with a 2-0-1 record and moves on to the semi-finals on Mar. 31.

Despite the heart-wrenching finish, it was the U.S. who opened the game with a flourish. Only seconds into the match, Brek Shea sent a cross over to Terence Boyd inside the box, where he volleyed it through to give the Americans the lead just like that.

The American lead withstood a series of attacks from El Salvador after the half hour until Blanco flicked a Jose Gutierrez corner kick inside the near post. A minute and a half later, a defensive breakdown in the U.S. box allowed Flores to poke through another to give the guests the lead going into the half.

In the second half, Caleb Porter’s boys battled to find the two goals needed to advance through to the semi-finals. Freddy Adu, who’s sensational playmaking and passing skills kept hope afloat, orchestrated the equalizer when he sent a through ball to Boyd, who put it through to make it 2-2 in the 65th minute.

The second goal arrived only three minutes later when Adu delivered a majestic cross to Corona far post, where the striker nodded it past Jimmy Cuellar for the apparent go-ahead goal.

With a good 20-plus minutes remaining, the U.S. refused to shell up and go into survival mode. They needed an insurance goal. After all, El Salvador showed no signs of going quietly into the night.

White the U.S. advanced, El Salvador slowly began to find holes. In the 73rd minute, Gutierrez nailed a shot from distance that forced substitute keeper Sean Johnson – who came on for an injured Bill Hamid in the first half – to the dive to keep the score in tact.

El Salvador sent waves of attacks crashing toward the U.S. net before one final surge knocked the U.S. down. The pressure was on.

And that pressure finally bursted only seconds from the final whistle. On one final attack, Alas escaped his mark and drove a hard shot that bounced hard off of Johnson’s mitts and into the net to send El Salvador into jubilation.

The U.S. finishes qualifying with a 1-1-1 record. Saturday’s surprising 2-0 loss to Canada set the stage for Monday’s win-or-go-home match.

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