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Win or stay home: U.S. must beat Canada for shot at 2016 Olympics

England's Dele Ali is challenged by Wil Trapp of USA during the International friendly match between England U21 and USA U23 on Sept. 3 in Preston, England.

England’s Dele Ali is challenged by Wil Trapp of USA during the International friendly match between England U21 and USA U23 on Sept. 3 in Preston, England.

(Dave Thompson / Getty Images)

The U.S. under-23 national team faces a must-win game with Canada on Tuesday in Sandy, Utah, to keep alive its flagging hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic tournament in Rio de Janeiro.

The Americans could have punched their ticket to Brazil by beating Honduras in the semifinals of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament last weekend. However, a 2-0 loss dropped the U.S. into the tournament’s third-place game, where it needs a victory to advance to a one-game playoff with Colombia in March. That game will determine who gets the final spot in the Olympic field.

The U.S. has qualified for the Olympics, an age-restricted tournament for men, just once since 2000.

In Tuesday’s championship game of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifier Mexico, the defending Olympic champion, will face Honduras, a team it already has beaten in the tournament. Both games will air live on NBC Universo, beginning with the U.S. and Canada at 4 p.m. PDT. The title game will follow at 7.

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Canada is 1-2-1 in the tournament, including a 3-1 loss to the U.S. in group play and a 2-0 loss to Mexico in the semifinals. The semifinal loss to Honduras is the only setback for the Americans, who have scored a tournament-high 13 goals in four games.

“We have to win,” U.S. midfielder Wil Trapp said after Saturday’s loss. “Plain and simple. That’s all it takes. There’s no other way. We can’t read into this result anymore. It’s over, disappointing as it was. We got to move forward.”

Making that task more difficult, however, is the U.S. will be without Coach Andi Herzog, who is banned from the technical area after receiving a red card in the 81st minute of the Honduras game.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com


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