U.S. falls to Canada: Olympic hopes dim

Andres Fresenga of Canada vies for the ball Andres Fresenga of Canada vies for the ball with Brek Shea of the U.S. (March 24, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The U.S. under-23 team went from bad to worse in the course of a few hours Saturday.

First, the Americans learned they had lost Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo indefinitely to a torn meniscus.

Then the United States went out and put on its poorest performance in a stunning 2-0 loss to underdog Canada in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament at LP Field.

The loss snapped the U.S. team's unbeaten streak in first-round Olympic home matches at 18 games (15-0-3), dating to when group play started in 1980.

A win would have clinched a semifinal spot. Instead, the defeat puts the United States (1-1-0, three points) in a must-win situation against El Salvador (1-0-1, four) here Monday night. Assuming Canada (1-0-1, four) defeats Cuba (0-2-0, 0), the Americans, if they win, would finish second in the group and most likely face Mexico in one semifinal match that will determine which team qualifies for London.

But for now, it's all about survival.

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Agudelo, who was scheduled to return home to New Jersey to be evaluated by the Red Bulls team doctors on whether surgery will be needed and how long he will be sidelined, watched the game from the bench along with U.S. coach Caleb Porter.

The Americans had no one to blame in the loss but themselves and a smart Canadian strategy of playing numbers behind the ball.

"We're obviously very disappointed," Porter said. "We knew going into the match we were going to face an organized Canada team."

The U.S. team entered the match on a high, a 6-0 triumph over Cuba on Thursday, the night that Agudelo scored but also suffered the injury. Canada had drawn with El Salvador.

"I don't feel this team was overconfident," Porter said. "We knew Canada was going to be ready."

The U.S. midfield, which was dominant in its previous match, was outplayed.

"They set up in a Christmas tree -- a 4-3-2-1, not a shape they've used," Porter said. "That's a shape you use to stop a team. We didn't exploit it enough.

"We never got settled in. We never really got into a rhythm. We were not as sharp as we needed to be."

Canada stunned the U.S. team with a goal in the 68th minute. Phillippe Davies sent in a corner kick that was met by Doniel Henry, who leaped over the U.S. defense and headed it past goalkeeper Bill Hamid from point-blank range.

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After the Americans failed to equalize, the Canadians struck for an insurance goal in the 83rd minute off a short corner kick from Russell Teibert to Davies on the right side. Davies crossed the ball in to unmarked Lucas Cavallini, who beat a slow-reacting Hamid.

"This isn't the end of the world," Porter said. "This isn't the way we expected it to play out. It's still in our hands."

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