U.S. wills itself to victory over El SalvadorBy pmcshane • Sep 6th, 2009 • Category: World Cup Notebook/Senior Nats
It took another comeback from the U.S. Men’s National soccer team Saturday to secure a 2-1 victory over El Salvador in World Cup qualifying play. The inches the team closer to a place in South Africa next year. 19,066 fans packed Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, to support the team as they now prepare to travel to Port-of-Spain to take on Trinidad and Tobago this Wednesday.
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It was another slow start for the Americans as sloppy possession dominated the early moments of the match. Newfound striking tandem Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies continued their partnership up top, unfortunately without much service from their midfield counterparts. Only Landon Donovan and rejuvenated midfielder Benny Feilhaber seemed to be effective with a number of smart passes through the Salvadoran back line.
However, the U.S. had defensive problems of their own to deal with as both outside backs, Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein, struggled all night with El Salvador’s speedy midfielders. In fact, it was Bornstein’s sloppy clearance that led to El Salvador’s lone goal in the 32nd minute. El Salvador midfielder Christian Castillo rose above Spector to catch keeper Tim Howard off his line with a powerful header after youngster Rodolfo Zelaya collected Bornstein’s gaffe.
The U.S. continued to struggle for the next few minutes after conceding the opening goal. Fortunately for the U.S., Landon Donovan stepped up his play and delivered two top-class crosses to earn the lead for good. The first cross came from a free-kick opportunity 35 yards out that found the head of Clint Dempsey for an easy goal, despite an attempt by El Salvador to play the offside trap. The second came just minutes into extra time as Donovan again put the perfect cross deep into the box for a wide open Altidore to easily nod home.
Though the second half continued to have the energy and excitement as the first, there just wasn’t the same opportunities or goals. Altidore notched his second of the contest early in the second half, but the play was called back due to a bizarre foul call against Altidore while he was fighting for the through ball from Dempsey. Later El Salvador continued to press and had a number of close calls, but Howard and his back line were up to the task and the match ended in favor of the Americans.
The team will have little time to celebrate their hard-fought victory as they begin their trek to Trinidad & Tobago. Missing defender Oguchi Onyewu should return to the lineup from his suspension, while Davies will most likely be questionable due to a left-leg injury he picked up late in the match. No U.S. players received any disciplinary warnings during the match, meaning those currently sitting on yellow cards will still be eligible for Wednesday, where a victory will all but solidify their World Cup dreams.
The match kicks off at 7:00 pm EST and can be seen on ESPN Classic.
Howard – Timmy was solid as usual, particularly during the harrowing final minutes. While he was caught off his line for the first goal, he stepped up when he needed to during crunch time.
Marshall – Seemed to the be the target of much of El Salvador’s physical play as he slotted deep in the central role while Bocanegra wandered a bit. I thought he had a monster performance in place of the suspended Onyewu, which means we may see more of Marshall again soon.
Bocanegra – Roamed a lot but was typically in position when needed to make a last minute clearance. It was an average performance in his return to a central role.
Spector – Wasn’t the performance I was expecting from Spector. I was hoping to see the Spector of the Confederations Cup, not the inconsistent player that was on the field tonight. He had multiple giveaways that led to dangerous chances for El Salvador.
Bornstein – Decent left back for the MLS, but he just isn’t cut out to be a consistent member for U.S. squad. It was his cheap giveaway that led to El Salvador’s goal and he seemed to be caught out of position repeatedly. With no other obvious options right now at left back, we still may see Bornstein again.
Bradley – One has to love Bradley’s tough-as-nails approach to the game. That said, his performance tonight was less than stellar as he was at times too casual with the ball and seemed to get more and more sloppy as the match continued.
Feilhaber – Was dominant in the first 45 and would have been my first half star if it wasn’t for Donovan’s pinpoint crosses for goals. Seemed to disappear for much of the second, particularly after it appeared that he picked up a slight knock late in the 1st half.
Dempsey – Continues to drift in-and-out of the match early only to suddenly come alive late in the half. He was much better for the final 45 and I like his place up top when a striker is subbed.
Davies – Great energy and speed up top to compliment Altidore’s size and power. His passing and movement were crucial, but I do worry about how he’ll perform against bigger defenses.
Donovan – He was impressive with his all-around play for the entire match. Tirelessly worked both ends of the pitch and came up with the big plays when needed.
Altidore – Should have had 2 goals if it wasn’t for the horrific foul call to take back his score in the second half. At times he had to fight off 2-3 El Salvador defenders, meaning his strength of being able run at the defense was heavily restricted.
Holden – Definitely gave the team a different look when he came on for Davies. Not necessarily a standout performance, but effective and versatile nonetheless.
Beckerman – The hometown fans were pleased to see the RSL captain make an appearance, but unfortunately he didn’t live up to the billing. He was sloppy with his passes and just seemed to be a class below his teammates.
Torres – Should have opened up his scoring account for the U.S. late in the match with a powerful header that Montes just happened to be in the right place to block.
United States vs. El Salvador, FIFA World Cup Qualifier – Final Round
Sept. 5, 2009. Rio Tinto Stadium – Sandy, Utah
Kickoff: 6 p.m. MT
Weather: Partly cloudy, 80 degrees
SLV – Christian Castillo (Rodolfo Zelaya) 32nd minute
USA – Clint Dempsey (Landon Donovan) 41
USA – Jozy Altidore (Landon Donovan) 45+2
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Jonathan Spector, 15-Chad Marshall, 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 12-Jonathan Bornstein; 8-Clint Dempsey , 5-Benny Feilhaber (16-Kyle Beckerman, 80), 4-Michael Bradley, 10-Landon Donovan; 9-Charlie Davies (7-Stuart Holden, 73), 17-Jozy Altidore (14-Jose Francisco Torres, 85)
Subs not used: 6-Steve Cherundolo, 11-Brian Ching, 13-Robbie Rogers, 18-Brad Guzan
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
SLV: 1-Miguel Montes; 3-Marvin González, 4-Mardoqueo Gonzalez, 12-Manuel Salazar, 13-Deris Umanzor; 5-Ramón Flores (14-William Reyes, 63), 6-Arturo Álvarez (8-Osael Romero, 50), 7-Ramón Sánchez (capt.), 10-Eliseo Quintanilla (9-Rudis Corrales, 75), 17-Christian Castillo; 11-Rodolfo Zelaya
Subs not used: 2-Alexander Escobar, 15-Alfredo Pacheco, 16-Denis Alas, 18-Dagoberto Portillo
Head Coach: Carlos de los Cobos
USA / SLV
Shots: 13 / 11
Shots on Goal: 6 / 5
Saves: 4 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 3
Fouls: 15 / 14
Offsides: 2 / 3
SLV – Ramon Flores (caution) 9th minute
SLV – Rodolfo Zelaya (caution) 80
Referee: Jose Pineda (HON)
Assistant Referee 1: Carlos Pastrana (HON)
Assistant Referee 2: Roberto Giron (HON)
Fourth Official: Ricardo Zelaya (HON)