The United States' loss to Canada was no small blow to their chances of qualifying for the London Olympics. Now, the Americans need to beat El Salvador in their Group A finale just to get to the semifinals, where they will then almost assuredly have to beat Mexico to get a spot in London. That's not exactly the path they envisioned, but it is the only one they have now.
The list of things that went wrong for the U.S. is Canada is rather long. It could start with the inability of the team's supposed "stars" like Freddy Adu and Brek Shea to make an impact when the American attack was devoid of ingenuity. It could go on with Caleb Porter's decision to take Joe Corona off at halftime or just what appeared to be a general lack of urgency in a tournament that demands it.
More than anything, the U.S. had a gigantic problem in an area where they cannot improve -- they are thin and inexperienced in defense. There are just six defenders on the entire U.S. roster and one of those, Perry KItchen, is actually better in the midfield. Take away Jorge Villafana, who is not even a first choice starter for the U.S., and the five remaining American defenders have a combined six professional seasons under their belts. Moreover, nobody along the back line would even be considered an exceptional player.
The defense is not devoid of promising players, but they are not incredible, not particularly experienced and there aren't many of them. That's a problem and worst of all, it is not going to go away at any point this tournament. The defense is what it is and it is not changing between now and either the Americans' elimination from the tournament or their qualifying for the Olympics.
Problems or not, the U.S. has to find a way to beat El Salvador on Monday night. A loss sends them home and will keep them there for the summer while 16 other teams play in the Olympics. The defense is what it is, but Adu, Shea and maybe even Mikkel Diskerud, Joseph Gyau or Terrence Boyd can make the difference that covers for the defense. Maybe the Americans will play like their Olympic lives are on the line, because that is their reality. Their lives are on the line.