In front of a mostly El Salvador crowd at M&T Bank Stadium, the United States Soccer Team put on a display in Baltimore this evening for everyone to see.
The Americans jumped on El Salvador in the beginning and never let up as they destroyed the young, aggressive squad 5-1 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals for their ninth consecutive victory.
The scoring started early in the first half for the USA as Clarence Goodson opened up the scoring as he tapped in a pass from Landon Donovan in the 21st minute to go ahead 1-0. A few minutes later, El Salvador tried to answer back. But back-to-back shots were knocked aside by USA goalkeeper Nick Rimando in the 26th minute.
”Zelaya, a great player, got the ball to the left and played the ball across the middle of the goal,” described Rimando, “I made myself big, went down to my left with my foot and made the save. Got up and there was another shot that I had to go down to my left again.”
Then three minutes later, Joe Corona manipulated the El Salvador defense inside the box and blasted a shot past goalkeeper Dagoberto Portillo Gamero to extend the USA advantage to 2-0 in the 29th minute.
El Salvador answered back when Rodolfo Zelaya converted a penalty shot past Rimando in the 39th minute. That shot which looped in the middle of the goal, cut the USA advantage to 2-1.
In the second half, El Salvador put some pressure on the USA rather furiously. But the Americans found a way to stem the tide and were able to answer the bell when needed. “We didn’t do a good job in the beginning of the second half. To (El Salvador’s) credit, they came out and really put us under some pressure,” said Donovan who had a hand in all the USA goals with one goal and four assists. “But after about 10 minutes, I think we finally settled down and got control of the game again. Scoring the third goal was really important.”
USA soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann said about Donovan, “I think Landon proved again today how valuable he is and now he can make a difference. This game was important for coaches to see who is a difference maker. Overall, we see our team clicking more and playing better and better.”
In the 60th minute, Eddie Johnson subbed into the game for Chris Wondolowski. It took only 14 seconds for Johnson to get a feed and mash a header into the goal. ”It was just a good ball from Donovan. I just try to get into the seams. You know the coach brought me in (Alan Gordon and I) because of our presence in the air. Donovan serves a good ball into the box and I was very fortunate to get on the end of it,” said Johnson. That extended the lead again to two goals at 3-1.
It wasn’t over yet as the weather opened up in the 71st minute and Donovan blasted a shot into the right side of the goal to extend the American advantage to 4-1 in the 78th minute.
Rounding out the evening was Mix Diskerud as he scored in the 84th minute. The Americans understood that they had to put pressure on El Salvador before they get it from them. How important was it to the USA?
Johnson answered, “We knew that (El Salvador was a good, technical team. And if we let them get a rhythm, it was going to be difficult for us because we knew there was going to be a lot of fans behind them.”
Donovan followed, “It was very important. The longer a game like this goes 0-0, the more belief El Salvador have. So getting Clarence’s early goal and getting the second one righ away was very good. We obviously don’t want to let them back in the game at 2-1. But we kept pressure on them we finally put them away.”
El Salvador coach Agustin Castillo said about the Americans’ play through a translator, “Collectively, they’re a very good team. They almost play by memory. They can find the spaces. It almost seems like every time they pass the ball into a space it’s going to nobody, then somebody appears and actually meets the ball. Good work, good movement.”
The USA advances to the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals for a match-up with Honduras in Arlington, Texas. Honduras knocked off Costa Rica 1-0 in the other quarterfinal on an Andy Najar goal in the 49th minute.
In the other semifinal, Panama plays defending Gold Cup champion Mexico.