The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team fell 1-0 to regional rivals Mexico on Wednesday night in the final round of group play in the 2021 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.
Chicago Fire FC defender Mauricio Pineda got the start and played 90 minutes in central defense, earning his second full shift of the tournament’s group stage. Pineda was additionally included in head coach Jason Kreis’ first XI for the team’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica in the opening match of group play.
The Fire’s 2020 Defender of the Year provided one of the highlights of the first half, breaking up an open look in front of net from Mexico’s Alejandro Mayorga in the 27th minute. Mayorga found himself played into what appeared to be a 1-v-1 situation with U.S. goalkeeper David Ochoa inside the 18-yard-box, but the Bolingbrook native provided relief in the form a well-timed slide tackle that broke up a dangerous opportunity.
Mexico took the lead in the 45th minute through Chivas de Guadalajara's Uriel Antuna, who found space outside the U.S. 18 to deliver the hosts an advantage just before halftime that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Despite the 1-0 defeat, the U.S. U-23s will still advance to the tournament’s semifinals on the strength of their second-place finish in Group A. They’ll take on the winner of Group B on Sunday, which will be determined on Thursday night. Honduras currently leads Group B on goal differential, but are level with second-place Canada on four points ahead of their meeting tomorrow night at 9 p.m. CT.
The winners of the two semifinal matchups will meet in the tournament final on March 30, and will ultimately earn the opportunity to represent Concacaf in the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo. 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.