Jason Kreis: “I don’t think that any of us should feel any real onus about what has happened four years ago and eight years ago.” (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Jason Kreis sees booking a spot in the Tokyo Olympics as an opportunity.
As it turns out, it would be a big opportunity, considering how the United States has fared in recent qualifying runs.
After participating in seven of the last eight Olympic soccer tournaments, the U.S. has hit a drought, failing to reach the Summer Games the last two times. Failure this time would mean the USA would tie its longest streak of missing the Olympics three successive times (1960 to 1968).
“I see it as opportunity,” the U.S. Under-23 head coach said during a ZOOM call with the media Monday afternoon after he named the team’s roster for the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament. “I presented to the guys that we have a chance to sort [of] almost rewrite history is not the right word but I think make a major step forward. It’s the right word.”
The U.S. stumbled in its attempts to qualify in 2012 and 2016. Adding in the failure to book at spot at Athens 2004, that meant the Americans have participated in the competition three of the last four times.
“I don’t think that any of us should feel any real onus about what has happened four years ago and eight years ago,” Kreis said. “None of us were part of that. For me, [it] is to just kind of right some wrongs.
“The other thing I think is really interesting about this situation with the men’s national team programs, really, us included, we have sort of the first opportunity to make a major step forward in qualifying for a major tournament whereas the full team, they got qualifying coming up at the end of the year. So, we kind of get the first bite at this and that’s another motivating factor.”
The tournament will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico from March 18-30 and the Americans face a difficult group.
The USA meets Costa Rica Thursday, March 18, 5 p.m. ET, the Dominican Republic Sunday, March 21 at 7 p.m. ET and Mexico Wednesday, March 24 at 9:30 p.m. ET.
The top two teams from each group qualify for the semifinals Sunday, March 28. The semifinal winners will clinch a spot in Tokyo. The final will be played Tuesday, March 30.
The schedule (all times ET/local time)
Thursday, March 18 – Jalisco Stadium
17:00/15:00 USA vs Costa Rica
19:30/17:30 Mexico vs Dominican Republic
Friday, March 19 – Jalisco Stadium
15:30/13:30 Honduras vs Haiti
18:00/16:00 Canada vs El Salvador
Sunday, March 21 – Akron Stadium
19:00/17:00 Dominican Republic vs USA
21:30/19:30 Costa Rica vs Mexico
Monday, March 22 – Akron Stadium
18:00/16:00 Haiti vs Canada
20:30/18:30 El Salvador vs Honduras
Wednesday, March 24 – Jalisco Stadium
19:00/17:00 Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic
21:30/19:30 Mexico vs USA
Thursday, March 25 – Jalisco Stadium
19:00/17:00 El Salvador vs Haiti
21:30/19:30 Honduras vs Canada
Sunday, March 28 – Jalisco Stadium
18:00/16:00 1B vs 2A
21:00/19:00 1A vs 2B
Tuesday, March 30 – Akron Stadium
21:00/19:00 Winner Semifinal 1 vs Winner Semifinal 2