Chicago Fire FC defender Mauricio Pineda and the U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team got off to a victorious start in the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship with a gritty 1-0 win against Costa Rica on Thursday.
Pineda got the starting nod in central defense alongside Real Salt Lake's Justen Glad, put in a 90-minute shift, and helped head coach Jason Kreis' side begin their qualifying campaign with a clean sheet.
The Bolingbrook, Ill. native also began the sequence that resulted in Jesus Ferreira's winning goal for the States in the 35th minute. Controlling possession high in the U.S. half, Pineda chipped a pass to Colorado Rapids' defender Sam Vines making a run down the left sideline. Vines' low cross into the box was deflected into to the feet of Ferreira, and the FC Dallas forward calmly finished the game's only goal.
The three points gained at Jalisco Stadium puts the U.S. atop the Group A standings ahead of their next qualifying match, a meeting with the Dominican Republic this Sunday, March 21 (6:00 p.m. CT; FS1, TUDN). They'll then finish up group play with a match against regional rivals Mexico next Wednesday, March 24 (8:30 p.m. CT; FS1, TUDN).
Outside of Group A, Group B is composed of Canada, El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras. The top two finishers in each group will advance to the pivotal semifinal matches that will send two winners to the Olympics in Tokyo as representatives of Concacaf. The two winners will also meet in the final on March 30. The U.S. is aiming to qualify for its first Men's Olympic Football Tournament since 2008.
For more on the U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team and their journey to Japan, visit ussoccer.com.