There was biting, nipple twisting, fakery and more as the U.S. MNT survived a CONCACAF special Wednesday night to defeat El Salvador 2-0 in Philadelphia, booking a semifinal berth versus Costa Rica on Saturday in the process.
Goals from defenders Omar Gonzalez and Eric Lichaj were enough to see the U.S. MNT past El Salvador but it would be a mistake to think that this was a good evening for the U.S. defense.
But we can get back to that. First the goals. Gonzalez got the ball rolling in the 41st minute when he headed home from a perfectly taken free kick from Michael Bradley.
Lichaj doubled the U.S. lead just before the halftime whistle when he got on the end of a Clint Dempsey setup to fire the Yanks to a seemingly comfortable 2-0 midway lead.
But that margin proved anything but secure as the underdog El Salvadorans pressured the very disorganized U.S. defense, coming close to breaching Tim Howard’s net without quite finding the correct formula.
Lichaj had very nearly gifted El Salvador with an early lead when his short back pass required Howard to spring into action to bail his defender out while also preserving the shutout.
El Salvador threatened often in the final 45 as the American defense left gaps all over that were easy enough for the El Salvador to exploit. The U.S. back four never appeared to be in synch, with Lichaj and his fellow fullback Justin Morrow getting caught upfield on breaks while Matt Hedges and Omar Gonzalez struggled to cover the El Salvador attackers in the resultant open space.
So, the game itself was far from a classic with skullduggery from the visiting El Salvadoran side making the contest something of a mockery as the relatively minor offenses of diving and embellishing by the visitors were largely forgotten when Henry Romero first twisted Jozy Altidore’s nipple and then looked to have taken a bite out of the American striker.
In the night’s other CONCACAF showdown Costa Rica defeated Panama 1-0 prior to the U.S. match, setting up a showdown between the Tico’s and the Yanks on Saturday.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 0 2
SLV 0 0 2
USA – Omar Gonzalez (Michael Bradley) 41st minute
USA – Eric Lichaj (Clint Dempsey) 45+2
USA: 24-Tim Howard; 15-Eric Lichaj, 21-Matt Hedges, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 16-Justin Morrow; 25-Darlington Nagbe (7-Chris Pontius, 87), 26-Michael Bradley (capt.); 20-Paul Arriola (8-Jordan Morris, 66), 9-Gyasi Zardes (23-Kelly Acosta, 71); 28-Clint Dempsey, 27-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 18-Juan Agudelo, 5-Matt Besler, 10-Joe Corona, 29-Jesse Gonzalez, 12-Bill Hamid, 13-Dax McCarty, 4-Matt Miazga, 2-Jorge Villafaña, 19-Graham Zusi
Head coach: Bruce Arena
SLV: 18-Derby Carrillo; 4-Henry Romero, 5-Iván Mancia, 21-Bryan Tamacas; 7-Darwin Cerén (capt)., 8-Denis Pineda (19-Edwin Sánchez, 78), 10-Gerson Mayen (16-Óscar Cerén, 57), 12-Narciso Orellana, 13-Alexander Larín; 9-Nelson Bonilla (20-Harold Alas, 83), 11-Rodolfo Zelaya
Subs not used: 1-Oscar Arroyo, 22-Benji Villalobos; 23-Ruben Marroquín, 2-Milton Molina, 15-Efraín Burgos, 3-Roberto Domínguez, 14-Andrés Flores, 17-Victor García, 6-Richard Menjivar
Head Coach: Eduardo Lara
Stats Summary: USA / SLV
Shots: 14 / 8
Shots on Goal: 8 / 1
Saves: 1 / 6
Corner Kicks: 5 / 1
Fouls: 19 / 26
Offside: 1 / 2
SLV – Iván Mancia (caution) 18th minute
USA – Darlington Nagbe (caution) 21
SLV – Alexander Larín (caution) 59
SLV – Henry Romero (caution) 81