Unlike the senior team, the United States under-23s went on the road to deal with a difficult atmosphere and actually got the job done, escaping Barranquilla with a precious 1-1 draw against Colombia. That away goal means a win on home soil, or even a 0-0 draw, will send the US to the Olympics over the favored Cafeteros.
How did the young nats get it done? Mostly by not having the ball. Colombia had 75% of possession (actually 75.3%, if you want to be specific), but settled for bad shots and generally rash decisions with the ball. The US actually could have been 2-0 up, as Luis Gil was able to get open numerous times in the first half. Despite watching Gil score from a wide-open position early in the match, Colombia never figured out how to track his late runs into the box. The issue became so severe that defensive midfielder Jose Luedo, showing no signs of injury, was pulled off the field in the 33rd minute.
Colombia stopped the bleeding from there, and surely they will be more prepared for where the US looks to run off the ball on counter-attacks. While a defense-first gameplan still makes a lot of sense for the US - they're the less talented team, and they don't have to open up as long as it's 0-0 - they'll still have to find some new wrinkles when they break forward. They'll also have to maintain a far larger share of possession to keep Colombia from dictating the tempo and gaining a firm foothold in this second leg.
Location: Toyota Stadium (Frisco, TX)
Kick-off time: 9:20pm Eastern
Available TV: ESPN2 (English)
Available streaming: WatchESPN (English)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
Treat this as tonight's gamethread.