U.S. earns spot in Olympic qualifying semifinal round

The U.S. moved a big step closer to Tokyo without ever leaving Guadalajara on Sunday, outlasting a game but weary Dominican Republic 4-0 to clinch a spot in next weekend’s semifinals of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.

Mexico, which will meet the U.S. in Wednesday’s group-play finale, also earned a place in the semifinals with a 3-0 victory over Costa Rica. The semifinal winners will advance to the Olympics, a tournament the U.S. hasn’t played in since 2008.

“It was a difficult match in a lot of ways,” U.S. coach Jason Kreis said of Sunday’s victory. “We’re pleased to walk out with another three points.”

The Dominican Republic, the youngest and most inexperienced team in the eight-team U-23 tournament, held the U.S. scoreless for the first hour behind goalkeeper Johan Guzmán, who faced 10 shots without conceding. But the Americans finally broke through on their 11th try with Jackson Yueill redirecting in a low pass from Sebastian Saucedo in the 61st minute.

Andrés Perea made the score possible, charging on to the long rebound of a Johnny Cardoso shot off the crossbar and heading it back into the box for Saucedo.

A minute later Kreis brought on Hassani Dotson and Djordje Mihailovic and the game changed, with Dotson scoring two goals five minutes apart — both off assists from Mihailovic — before Mihailovic closed the scoring with a goal of his own in stoppage time.

“Our guys were just a little bit too cautious in the first half. Our guys were more concerned about the transition than they were about creating attacking moments,” Kreis said. “And those two things add up to not a good performance in the first half.

“What we saw in the second half was much improved.”

On the other end goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski was forced into just two saves to give the U.S. its second shutout in as many games.

The Americans will get a much tougher test from Mexico, which has outscored the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica 7-1 in its two wins. Former Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna scored Mexico’s first goal and set up the second in Sunday’s win while Sebastián Córdova got the third, his fourth in two games.

Wednesday’s U.S.-Mexico game will decide the group winner and matchups for the semifinals against the top two teams from Group B. That group’s semifinalists remain undecided heading into Monday’s Haiti-Canada and Honduras-El Salvador games.