RICH FIDLER - Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The United States Olympic team will face Canada on Thursday evening in Nashville, Tennessee with a berth in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing going to the winner.
Canada, who recently disposed of Group A winners Guatemala by a stunning 5-0 score line, advanced ahead of the regional rival Mexico due to goal differential. Canada looks to advance to their first Olympic birth since the Los Angeles games of 1984.
The Maple Leafs, coached by former Canadian National team player Nick Dasovic, ended a five-game winless streak in CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualification with the result, and advanced to the deciding game less than a year after hosting the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
Canada is lead by captain Will Johnson, who is currently playing for De Graafschap of the Dutch Eredivisie where he's on loan from SC Heerenveen. Johnson, who played one season in Major League Soccer before traveling abroad, was teammates with missing American midfielder Michael Bradley last year.
Tosaint Ricketts is another dangerous player the US will need to keep a close eye on Thursday evening; the Edmonton native is currently in his junior season at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
He is one of three Canadian players currently attached to colleges in the US, while 10 of the Canucks are currently overseas for various squads.
The Yanks will likely field a team including the rested Jozy Altidore, Freddy Adu, and captain Maurice Edu, all of whom sat out Saturday's 1-0 victory over Honduras. West Ham's Jonathon Spector has joined the team at their training camp in Nashville to help solidify the back line after missing the group stages due to club commitments.
The biggest question for the Red, White and Blue will be the formation head coach Peter Nowak will field after changing his lineup for every game in the tournament thus far.
In the other semifinal game, Honduras will face fellow Central American nation Guatemala at 6:00pm EST to determine the first CONCACAF Olympic birth before the North American neighbors battle for the second spot.