Paxten Aaronson scored the USA’s first goal. (Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
The long wait is finally over.
For the first time since 2008, the U.S. men are going to the Olympics.
The Americans rolled to a 3-0 victory over host and 10-man Honduras at Estadio Pedro Morazan to clinch a berth at the 2024 Paris Summer Games on Friday.
Paxten Aaronson, Alejandro Alvarado, Jr. and Quinn Sullivan scored for the USA, which will meet the Dominican Republic in the Concacaf Under-20 Championship final on Sunday.
Honduras played the final three minutes of the match a man down after Jefryn Macias was red carded for a hard foul in the 87th minute.
The Dominicans, who qualified for their first Olympic soccer tournament, rallied from a two-goal deficit and defeated Guatemala in penalty kicks earlier in the day, 4-2, after playing to a 2-2 draw.
Both teams will have to wait two years for the Summer Games to begin, but after what the Americans endured for three consecutive qualifying cycles, it certainly was worth the Wait. After all, the USA also qualified for the U-20 World Cup with a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Costa Rica on Tuesday night.
The USA men last competed in the Olympics in 2008, when Freddy Adu was in his prime. His teammates included Sacha Kljestan, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Stuart Holden, Dax McCarty, Danny Szetela, Charlie Davies, Jozy Altidore, Robbie Rogers, Benny Feilhaber, among others. Brian McBride, Brad Guzan and Michael Parkhurst were the over-age players.
The USA could not have asked for a better start to the match.
Aaronson, the younger brother of Leeds United midfielder-forward Brenden Aaronson, lifted the Americans into the lead in the third minute as he caught the Honduran defense napping on Brandan Craig’s free kick from the left side. Aaronson found himself alone in front of the net and he had an easy goal, his fifth of the tournament.
That score set the tone for the rest of the opening 45 minutes as the USA was relentless.
Alvarado doubled the margin volleying the ball home off Mauricio Cuevas’ feed from the left side in the 22nd minute as the ball went through the goalkeeper’s hands.
The Americans weren’t finished as Sullivan slotted the ball home a left-wing cross with a defender on him in front of the net for a stunning 3-0 halftime advantage.
Honduras tried to make a game of it in the second half, but the USA held the hosts off the scoreboard.