NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Not reaching the Olympic soccer tournament? Don't even think of it, says U.S. Under-23 team captain Freddy Adu.
"I'm not even thinking about that right now," Adu said before the U.S. team met El Salvador in a must-win game at the CONCACAF men's qualifying tournament Monday night. "I believe that we're going to be there."
Nothing like a little pressure on the United States.
Win and the Americans probably will meet Mexico for a spot in the Olympics. Lose or even tie and they go home.
If the players had any nerves, they certainly weren't showing it beforehand.
Adu said that the game was "our final, and everybody understands that," he said "We know what we have to do to move on. Guys look motivated."
On the heels of Canada's 2-0 upset of the U.S. team Saturday night, the Americans (1-1-0, three points) found themselves on a precarious perch. With Canada (1-0-1, four) favored to defeat winless Cuba (0-2-0, none), the Americans, the tournament favorites, would have to beat El Salvador (1-0-1, four) to finish second in Group A.
If they did win, their most likely opponent in the semifinals -- which will decide both Olympic berths -- most likely will be Mexico. The Mexicans are undefeated in Group B after impressive 7-1 and 3-0 wins over Trinidad & Tobago and Honduras.
"We can't worry about not getting first place," defender Perry Kitchen said. "At this point, we're just trying to get to the next round. We have to have a short memory with this game coming up because there's no time to dwell on what happened. We just weren't sharp. We need to be better."
If the U.S. team doesn't book a ticket to London, it would fail to qualify for the Olympics for only the second time since 1976. The Americans fell short in their quest to reach the Athens Summer Games in 2004.
If they gave out points for sounding confident, the United States would win going away.
"We went to bed yesterday [with] side effects, but I'm looking forward, and I know the rest of my team is looking forward to a new game against El Salvador," midfielder Mix Diskerud said. "We know [El Salvador] is a good team. They're technical and their formation's good, as well. But I think we're better."
Possible Cuban defectorBefore the Cuba-Canada game, a Cuban player apparently defected to the United States; 22-year-old Yosmel de Armas was listed as not present on the official game roster. When that has happened in the past, the players had defected. It has become a regular occurrence when Cuba plays in the United States.
De Armas played one game for Cuba, having started the 4-0 loss to El Salvador on Saturday.
During the 2008 Olympic qualifying tournament in Tampa, seven players left Cuba's U-23 team, including Yeniel Bermudez, Yordany Alvarez and Yendry Diaz.