USMNT Report: Prepping for Salvadoran Sellout

With a sellout crowd expected in Baltimore, the Americans ready for El Salvador
by Herb Scribner   |   Sunday, July 21, 2013

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

The United States Men’s National Team, a favorite to make the final match of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, cruised through the tournament's group phase with emphatic wins.

But if there was any time for an upset, it’s now, as the USMNT enters the quarterfinals and sets the stage for a clash with El Salvador at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore later today. The teams are expected to play in front of a sellout and raucous crowd.

THE ROAD TO NOW: The United States enters the Gold Cup quarterfinals after a clean sweep of the tournament’s Group C.

On July 9, the Yanks dismantled Belize 5-1 thanks to a 1st half hat trick by Chris Wondolowski. Four days later, Wondo scored a pair of goals to lead the US in a 4-1 over Cuba. The San Jose striker disappeared, though, in last Tuesday’s matchup when the United States cleanly defeated Costa Rica 1-0.

PRE-GAME CHATTER: USMNT captain DaMarcus Beasley said players aren’t worried about personal performances, but are concerned with the USA taking the Gold Cup trophy away from Mexico.

“We are playing for a championship,” he said. “This is something that we can achieve as a group, a chance for these 23 guys to do something special as a team together. The guys know that. No one here is focused on trying to make a World Cup roster. All we are worried about is trying to win a Gold Cup final.”

Midfielder Kyle Beckerman said the team is very experienced with these situations.

“Everybody in this team has gone through something like this before,” he said. “We just need to keep an even keel really, and keep doing what we do best."

ANALYSIS: Tournaments always have a change of pace in the knockout rounds, and this one will be no different. The United States breezed through Group C with little to fret over, save for a worrying 1st half against Cuba and a defensive deadlock against Costa Rica, but the upcoming match(es) could prove troublesome if the US lets its guard up.

The Americans have been overwhelmingly successful against the Salvadorans historically, building up a 15-1-5 record over La Selecta. In Gold Cup play, the pair has met 4 times, with the USA winning all the games by a shutout.

El Salvador will look to continue its good form seen in Group B, where it only lost once to Honduras. Rodolfo Zelaya scored the team’s 3 goals in the opening round, and will surely be looking to add to that tally on Sunday.

La Selecta surely won’t make it easy on the United States, especially if they take notes from Costa Rica and shut down the space in the midfield. This USA side has flair and aggressiveness when playing minnows, but with a cluttered midfield and without any space to move the ball, things dim down and the Americans are left hapless on the pitch.

Costa Rica was the USA’s 1st real test in the tournament, and that game nearly ended in a 0-0 draw had it not been for Joe Corona’s under-pressure pass to Landon Donovan and the ensuing goal from Brek Shea. One play of absolute brilliance broke the knot and kept the USA’s winning streak alive (now at 8 games, an all-time record for the States).

El Salvador may offer the Yanks more of a chance to get back to the dominating and fiery ways that they opened the tournament with. For that to happen, Donovan, Corona and Jose Torres are tasked with feeding the strikers when space opens up.

Wondolowski, who had opportunities sent his way against the Ticos, will look to connect on the final ball this time around and secure the goals – assuming he makes the starting lineup. US manager Jurgen Klinsmann tinkered with the lineup for the Costa Rica match, so there’s no telling who may open the game in red and white stripes. While the USMNT manager fielded a winning lineup against Costa Rica, some notable usual starters, like Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando, were benched.

The USA will have even more in-form defenders joining their ranks, as Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler were called in. Besler and Gonzalez were central defenders for the World Cup qualifying USA squad, so they’ve got experience that could surely aid the United States with keeping strong in the back in high-pressure situations.

It’s also going to be a game Team USA will look to win on the pitch, as M&T Bank Stadium is expected to be a sellout and crowded with El Salvador fans. Though the game is stateside, at points this may feel like an away game for the Americans.

For the US, everything that went wrong against Costa Rica needs to go right against La Azul y Blanco if the Americans want to advance. Playing as they did in East Hartford won't do them any favors. And if they play as sluggishly as they did at points against Costa Rica later today, then there may be an incredible upset in Baltimore.

NEXT UP: July 21 – Gold Cup: United States vs. El Salvador, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore. 4 p.m. EST, FOX, Univision.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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