U.S. must prove its mettle now 

March, 25, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The talented U.S. Olympic qualifying roster possesses plenty of pedigree.

Now we'll get to see what sort of character it has.

The young Yanks head into Monday night's match against El Salvador with their Olympic lives on the line, after suffering a 2-0 drubbing against Canada here Saturday night.

Win, and they maintain hopes of spending this summer in London chasing a medal. Lose or draw, and they're almost certain to suffer the humiliation of failing in the group stage of CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. "If you can't get up for that, to try and go to the Olympics," midfielder Brek Shea said, "then you shouldn't be here."

After consecutive matches in which everything went right -- a 2-0 friendly victory last month against Mexico and a 6-0 pasting of Cuba in the qualifying tournament opener Thursday -- nearly everything went wrong for the U.S. on Saturday.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

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