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 draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

Union draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

With an eye on potential, the Union selected two forwards and a defender as they wrapped up the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 MLS draft on Tuesday.

With the 55th overall selection, the Union grabbed Chris Nanco, a Canadian-born forward out of Syracuse. The 5-foot-6 speedster, who led his club with 15 points over his senior season, was listed as a second-round talent on some draft boards.

Moving into the fourth and final round, the Union selected West Virginia defender Jack Elliott with the 77th overall pick. Opposite of the diminutive Nanco, Elliott, out of London, stands at a hulking 6-foot-5. Also listed as a defensive midfielder, Elliott showed a twinge of offense and started all 16 games for the Mountaineers in his senior season, playing a part in eight shutouts over that span.

Back in 2015, the Union moved defender Ethan White to New York City FC for the 82nd overall pick in 2017. That trade finalized on Tuesday when the Union selected productive Spanish forward Santi Moar out of Pfeiffer University. Moar scored 14 goals and 19 assists in 20 games with Pfeiffer as a sophomore in 2016.

Although these picks aren’t guaranteed to be with the club by the end of training camp, the Union will heavily utilize USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel to assist in the development of prospects who do make it.

Without a first-round pick, the Union traded up to select Marcus Epps, an attacking midfielder in the early second round. They also added depth at right back Aaron Jones with the 33rd overall pick.

Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

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Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

With no first-round picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Friday in Los Angeles, the Union were still able to add what they were looking for. 

“We got two players today that we want to be with the Philadelphia Union for a long time,” Union manager Jim Curtin said.

The club made a splash early in the second round by trading the 42nd overall pick, originally acquired by the Union, sending Zac MacMath to the Colorado Rapids, and $50,000 in 2018 General Allocation Money to the Minnesota United for the 25th overall pick. 

With that selection, the Union plucked Marcus Epps, an athletic right wing midfielder out of the University of South Florida. 

“We didn’t want to wait any longer,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “We were afraid Marc would go sooner, so we made sure we were ready to do a deal and creep up the board so we could get him.”

Epps admitted he didn’t know much about the Union. He wasn’t in attendance at the draft but was thrilled at hearing his name called over the MLS live stream.

“I’ve been on the phone with family and friends,” he said. “I was huddled around the laptop, streaming in and hoping to hear the good news. 

“I was definitely surprised and excited.”

Epps, listed by MLS at 5-foot-10, is 22 and a native of Jackson, Mississippi. According to both Stewart and Curtin, Epps is an adept one-on-one player and a skillful attacking winger that fits the Union’s style. He’s also right-footed and stated that he has experience on both the left and right wing in the midfield.

“He has speed, he has agility, he’s a big boy,” Stewart said. “The combination of those factors and the philosophy that we have at the Philadelphia Union, we believe we can develop this kid to be something very special. If you have the ability that he has on the ball and the speed that he has, that can create a lot of chaos in the opponent’s half. That’s something we look forward to developing in Marcus.” 

However, while Epps’ numbers at USF aren’t eye-popping, Stewart isn’t worried. The young player spent most of his senior season with an iliotibial band injury but scored eight goals and nine assists in 75 games over four seasons with USF. 

“We bring players in to develop them,” Stewart said. “If they had all the numbers in college or youth teams, they would have gone one or two. He has certain qualities that not every player has. Keegan Rosenberry (current Union right back) didn’t have the numbers other people had at the same time. I think we made a good choice with Keegan.” 

Even with their move up in the second round, the Union still possessed their original second-round pick — the 33rd overall selection. There, they added depth by drafting aggressive 5-foot-9 right back Aaron Jones out of Clemson. 

“I’m delighted to join the Union and excited at the direction that franchise is moving,” Jones said. “I’m extremely proud of what Keegan was able to do last year. It’s [what] I want to emulate in my career. I want to push him and try and play as many games as I can next year. Injuries happen in sports, so if the chance is given to me, I’m going to take it.”

Jones, who hails from Great Yarmouth in the U.K. and claims to be a set-piece specialist, transferred from Georgia State to Clemson for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Like Epps, Curtin, who noted Jones’ soccer IQ and tenacity, sees the right back fitting in nicely with the Union style.

“He really impressed us,” said Curtin, who noted that Jones will compete with Rosenberry and Ray Gaddis for playing time. “He’s a kid who will compete from Day 1. He wins his one-on-one battles defensively, he embraces the defensive part of the game and he’s a guy that wants to get better every day. He has a Union mentality and will be a guy our fans will be high on.

“He has an impressive skillset.”

The Union will take part in the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 draft on Jan. 17, in which the club owns the 55th, 77th and 82nd pick.