CARSON, Calif. - Michael Stephens had made it known since the beginning of the year that playing in this year’s Summer Olympics was a goal of his.
A regular on recent U.S. Under-23 national team squads, the LA Galaxy midfielder was on the field Monday in Tennessee when the U.S. tried to close out their final group stage match against El Salvador when disaster struck.
WATCH: Beckham, Stephens on 2012 Olympics
The Central Americans scored a late equalizer to send the Americans home packing, ensuring that Stephens’ 2012 Olympic dreams never become reality.
READ: Road to Olympic glory ends abruptly for Stephens, U.S.
Stephens said Thursday that failing to reach the Olympic games was the largest disappointment in his career.
“By a large amount,” he added. “That was an opportunity that I’ll never get again. I think I speak for all the players, we were really disappointed in ourselves and we really let a lot of people down.”
Stephens did not play in either of the United States’ first two group games, a 6-0 win over Cuba and a 2-0 loss to Canada. He replaced Joe Corona in the 88th minute of Monday’s match and was on the field trying to close out the game and send the Americans through to the all-important semifinal round.
But a late goal ended any hopes Stephens and the U.S. had of reaching Saturday’s semifinals and playing in a do-or-die match against Honduras for a spot in the Summer Olympics.
Still, while El Salvador destroyed the Americans’ hopes it was the second match that sunk the squad.
“We have to look at that Canada game as the game that kind of let us down,” he said. “The El Salvador game we had a five-minute spell there in the first half but outside of that I think we had a decent performance. The first game we had a really good game so you have to look at the Canada game that got away a little bit and once there we just got punished in that last game in a short period of time and that’s how the game goes.”
Now, Stephens finds himself back with the Galaxy and vying for more playing time. The Galaxy’s match against New England will offer him something to take his mind away from the qualifying failure.
“It’s a huge disappointment to all of us but you’ve got to get on with it personally and continue on moving forward,” he said. “It’s a long season here with the Galaxy and it’s going to be nice jumping back into a game and trying to get my mind off it.”