U.S. knocked out of Olympics in final seconds

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U.S. knocked out of Olympics in final seconds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Americans had only a handful of seconds left to run out the clock and advance a step closer to the Olympics. With the pressure building with each tick, victory slipped away.

Right off their hands.

The United States, known for producing top goalkeepers such as Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller and Tim Howard, found themselves done in Monday night when substitute Sean Johnson couldn't handle a long shot from Jaime Alas of El Salvador in stoppage time.

The ball bounced off his hands, up over him and into the net, and El Salvador ousted the United States from Olympic qualifying with a 3-3 tie. Four minutes of stoppage time were added on, and a clock on television showed the goal going in at 4:14.

"This is probably the worst feeling I've ever felt in my life so far as a pro athlete," U.S. captain Freddy Adu said. "This is going to be hard to get over. But at the end of the day things like this happen. For me, I never want to feel this way again, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to never feel this way again."

The Americans had to win to reach Saturday's semifinals in Kansas City, Kan., and they led 3-2 on Joe Corona's goal in the 68th minute. Officials added 4 minutes of stoppage time onto the game, and U.S. coach Caleb Porter said they were "seconds away" from closing out the win and taking the top spot in Group A.

What happened is something U.S. midfielder Mix Diskerud said no one wants to experience in life, something he couldn't believe.

"The last 20 minutes after our third goal, all those minutes felt like very, very long hours. But I thought we were going to make it. Everybody thought we were going to make it.," Diskerud said.

"One shot."

Alas stunned the Americans, who missed the Olympics for the second time since 1976 and second time in three Games.

Several Americans dropped to the field in exhaustion and disbelief after the score, and Porter had to try to rally them back to their feet for one last gasp chance that didn't materialize. Porter said he hugged Johnson after the game. The 6-foot-4 keeper did not speak with reporters.

"He feels like he's let everybody down, let his teammates down, and I told him he didn't," Porter said.

El Salvador reached the semifinals, putting it a win away from its first Olympic berth since 1968. Canada, which tied Cuba 1-1 earlier, finished second. Lester Blanco and Andres Flores also scored for El Salvador, a team coach Mauricio Alfaro pointed out had less than two weeks to prepare for this tournament and didn't have the whole roster together until late.

"It was just incredible," Alfaro said of the win through an interpreter.

But Alfaro also said he had told his players to shoot more in the second half to try to pressure Johnson and the El Salvadoran coach said he did feel Johnson made a mistake on Alas' kick.

"The shot didn't have much power," Alfaro said through the interpreter.

Terrence Boyd scored twice for the U.S., and Johnson replaced keeper Bill Hamid in the 39th minute.

After a 2-0 loss to Canada in the second of this three-game, round-robin tournament, the Americans needed to win to advance.

So did El Salvador, and the crowd of 7,889 was about evenly split between the countries keeping the U.S. from a true home-field advantage at LP Field, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans. El Salvador survived a physical game with plenty of yellow cards on each side.

Boyd went to the sideline with blood on the front of his shirt late in the game. Diskerud said both he and Adu were bitten and showed reporters marks as proof.

"Part of the game, I guess," Diskerud said.

The U.S. had a little bit of time left to try and go ahead but couldn't get anything going before the game ended. The result leaves the Americans adding 2012 to 2004 and 1976 as years they failed to qualify for the Olympics, missing out on a 15th appearance overall.

Boyd got his first start in this round-robin tournament with Juan Agudelo recovering from surgery in New York to fix torn cartilage in his left knee, and Boyd gave the Americans the scoring boost they missed against Canada on Saturday night. The Americans attacked from the start, Boyd scored 61 seconds into the game. Brek Shea dribbled out of three defenders and sent a cross over to Boyd who scored off a left-footed volley.

And Boyd nearly scored twice more. His header went over the crossbar in the 10th minute, and he had a breakaway chance in the 11th only to see keeper Yimy Cuellar come out to break up the play.

Hamid rolled covering up a ball and appeared to hurt his ankle midway through the first half.

El Salvador took advantage by scoring two goals in two minutes to grab the lead and the momentum. Blanco scored on a header off a corner kick over Hamid's hands in the 35th minute, and Flores beat Hamid in the 37th minute off what had been a weak shot by Alas that turned into a cross. U.S. coach Caleb Porter pulled Hamid in the 39th minute, putting in 6-foot-4 Johnson for his first appearance in this round-robin tournament.

Boyd tied it up with his second goal off a pass from Adu in the 65th minute. Joe Corona, whose mother is a native of El Salvador, scored off a header just inside the left post off a pass from Adu.

Johnson smothered one strong kick from Isidro Gutierrez but couldn't stop the ball when it mattered at the end.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Union's red-hot Roland Alberg named MLS Player of the Week

Union's red-hot Roland Alberg named MLS Player of the Week

CHESTER, Pa. — Roland Alberg has never in his life been on a tear like he’s on right now.

And he’s being rewarded for it.

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Union midfielder was named MLS Player of the Week after scoring four goals in his last two games, including the second hat trick in franchise history in Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the Chicago Fire.

“It’s a good honor,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said following Tuesday’s practice. “I’m really happy with his contribution right now. And I think it’s the just start of something.”

Before his four-goal week, Alberg scored on a penalty kick in last Saturday’s 3-2 loss in New York City FC and logged a pair of goals in Philly’s 3-2 U.S. Open Cup victory on June 15.

That win set the Union up for a U.S. Open Cup showdown with the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday at Talen Energy Stadium, where Alberg will once again likely be asked to carry much of the offensive load with standout striker C.J. Sapong questionable with an ankle injury.

“You need multiple players that can score goals,” Curtin said. “And he’s a guy that can, whether it’s with his right foot, left foot. You’ve seen in very limited minutes, he’s already second on the team in shots on goal. He gets on the ball and his first look is to play forward and go to the goal.”

Curtin still hopes to see some defensive improvements from Alberg, whose playing time sharply increased following the sudden departure of Vincent Nogueira due to personal health reasons.

For now, though, the Union are thrilled with the offensive production of a player who now has five league goals in only 512 minutes. He’s second on the team in scoring to Chris Pontius, who was named MLS Player of the Week earlier this month.

Alberg’s honor marks the first time in club history two players have been named MLS Player of the Week in the same season.

Before this season, the only players to win the award were Jack McInerney (2013), Justin Mapp (2011) and Sebastien Le Toux (twice in 2010).

'Silly goals' have Union defense searching for answers after loss to Whitecaps

'Silly goals' have Union defense searching for answers after loss to Whitecaps

CHESTER, Pa. -- The Union have a defensive problem.

It’s clear, following the club’s 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (see story), that Jim Curtin’s once defensively stout team has sprung a leak. The Union have allowed nine goals in their last three MLS games.

“It’s a lot [of goals against] and I’m pissed about that,” Curtin, whose club is 1-2-0 since the Copa America break ended, said. “Don’t get me wrong, we’ll get it fixed, but it’s a lot of silly goals.”

The goals allowed, while plentiful, have been preventable. Like on Saturday, when Union goalkeeper Andre Blake bobbled a corner that ended up in his net. That was followed by a turnover in the midfield by Tranquillo Barnetta that left rookie Josh Yaro out to dry on a fast break in the open field.

“It’s preventable for us, as opposed to teams picking us apart with 20 passes at a time and a good finish,” Union full back Keegan Rosenberry said. “This is completely different.”

So, what's the root cause of these preventable goals? Is it the loss of Vincent Nogueira, who left the team three games ago because of health reasons? Is it Barnetta’s move to a more defensive midfield role shaking up the on-field chemistry?

“I probably can’t pinpoint one thing,” Blake said. “I think that some bounces aren’t going our way and the times we blocked the ball before, now we’re blocking and it’s going in. I think it’s one of those phases where you don’t want to think too much about it.”

Whether the Union want to think about it or not, the goals are pouring in. They allowed just 16 in 14 games prior to the Copa America break and nine in three since returning — not a healthy sign for a team clinging to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

“There’s no way we’re happy giving up this many goals,” Blake said. “I think we’re going through a phase and we have to hang tight, stick together and ride out the storm.”

Union's home win streak snapped, fall to Whitecaps, 3-2

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Union's home win streak snapped, fall to Whitecaps, 3-2

CHESTER, Pa. — Roland Alberg continued his scoring run (see story), but it couldn’t cover up for defensive mistakes, as the frustrated Union fell to the Vancouver Whitecaps, 3-2, on Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

It’s not a feeling the group is used to or likes,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “The guys are disappointed, upset, frustrated.”

The loss, their second in three games, snaps a 10-game home unbeaten streak for the Union and sinks their record to 7-5-5 on the season and 6-1-2 at home. The Whitecaps move to 7-7-3.

“It’s difficult to lose at home here,” Curtin said. “But we had a good undefeated run and we’re going to start another one.”

Thing were looking up for the Union early. The hosts opened scoring in the 14th minute with an eye-opening display of skill from Tranquillo Barnetta, Ilsinho, Fabian Herbers and Alberg.

Barnetta began the play upfield off a turnover from Pedro Morales. And after ticky-tac passing at the top of the Whitecaps box, a one-touch delivery eventually found the feet of Herbers on the right side, giving the rookie space to fire off a right-footed volley that decked the upper left corner post.

That’s where Alberg pounced. The red-hot midfielder settled it off a Sebastien Le Toux deflection and easily placed it home for his fifth goal of the season — all of which came in the Union’s last three games.

“The feeling is great, but it’s a different feeling than Wednesday,” Alberg said, recalling his three-goal game against the Chicago Fire. “I’m disappointed about the result. I think we deserved more today, we played a great game. But in the end, no points and that’s a disappointment."

But the Whitecaps would counter just five minutes later on one of many Union mistakes. A corner cross into the box slipped through the hands of Andre Blake and onto the head of Andrew Jacobson and in.

“I’m disappointed,” Blake said. “It’s a mistake, and as a professional player, there will be times when you make mistakes. Unfortunately, that mistake cost a goal. I can’t dwell on it, it’s the past and I have to move on.”

The Whitecaps made it 2-1 in the 42nd by catching the Union overcommitted as a result of a Barnetta turnover in the midfield. On the counter, Kekuta Manneh torched Union defender Josh Yaro, cut to the middle and fired off a low shot that cleanly beat Blake. In the 84th minute, Christian Bolanos added the insurance when his shot was deflected in by Keegan Rosenberry.

"It was judgment," Yaro said. "That's part of playing. You make mistakes that cause a goal like that. It's not great, but there's nothing I can do about it now. I just have to let it go and move on."

It was the eighth goal the Union allowed in their last three games.

You win or you learn,” Curtin said. “And we’re learning right now.”

The Union fought back in stoppage time, when a corner was headed by Walter Restrepo back into the crease where Chris Pontius was waiting to make the finish. However, the match ended seconds after, 3-2.

“It’s a big win for us and a very important win,” Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said. “Today, we wanted to show a little character and I think we showed a lot of character. Credit to the guys, it’s not an easy place to come. We’ve never won here, but we have tonight.”