The U.S. Under-23 national team has one foot in the door to Rio.
Luis Gil scored a valuable away goal as the U.S. earned a 1-1 draw against Colombia on Friday in the Olympic qualifying playoff first leg. The result gives the Americans a marginal advantage going into the second leg Tuesday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
The U.S. needed less than five minutes to open the scoring. Gil played a through ball down the right flank to Mario Rodriguez, who beat his man to the end line and played a centering feed that the Monterrey playmaker tucked inside the far post from 12 yards out.
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The Americans nearly went up 2-0 in the 26th minute. Jordan Morris drilled an angled shot that goalkeeper Cristian Bonilla couldn’t handle, but Gil saw his attempt to slam home the rebound go wide of the mark.
U.S. goalkeeper Ethan Horvath endured a scary moment in the 38th minute, when the 20-year-old ventured out of his box to head away a long ball and collided with Colombia forward Andres Renteria. Horvath remained down for several minutes but stayed in the match after receiving attention from the medical staff, only to give way to backup Cody Cropper in the 45th minute.
The U.S. again came close to doubling the advantage in the 64th minute, when Morris rang the crossbar with an outside-of-the-foot effort from distance.
Colombia drew level in the 68th minute. U.S. defender Matt Miazga failed to deal with a long pass forward, and Colombia substitute Rafael Borre connected with the loose ball and tumbled to the turf under a challenge from Kellyn Acosta to draw the penalty. Juan Quintero converted the spot kick, firing low to Cropper’s right.
The Colombians, who dominated possession throughout the contest, continued to apply pressure in the game’s dying stages but could not find a winner.