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Onalfo Scouting Report - El Salvador

It’s often the case in qualifying that you face an opponent with their backs against the wall, and there’s no question El Salvador is firmly up against it.  With only three points from three games, and only one home game remaining, anything less than a victory will send the Salvadorians back to the drawing board for 2010.   We have to be ready for anything.

El Salvador is coming off a humiliating 3-0 home loss to Jamaica, which earned their coach his walking papers.  Under new coach Armando Contreras, no less than 11 new players have been added to the squad for Saturday’s game.  A new coach, a new team, and the pressure from their fanaticos all add up to a highly unpredictable opponent.

Let’s talk about what we do know.  Their striking options remain virtually the same, with Ronald Cerritos, Jose Martinez, and Josue Galdamez all possibilities as frontrunners.  Cerritos was not initially called into the squad, but earned his way back in after solid performances for his club team.  Martinez did not play against us in September due to suspension, but he is one of their better attacking players.  Galdamez started alongside Cerritos in our first game, but was largely ineffective.  Another potential candidate is Fredy Gonzalez, a new addition to the squad.  Gonzalez is in good form at the club level, leading the scoring charts at Aguila.

In the midfield, Contreras has called in Santos Cabrera, a skillful playmaker who passes well and has good vision.  Cabrera has been hampered by injury, but is expected to be available Saturday.  Another option is Victor Merino, the diminutive midfielder who shares similar qualities.  Much of their attacking efforts go through Merino when he’s on the field.  Former Dallas Burn midfielder Jorge Rodriguez, who is El Salvador’s most experienced player with 33 caps, will likely play as a holding midfielder and spearhead their efforts to stifle our attack.

In the back, team captain Victor Velasquez will marshal the back line, whether they choose to play three or four across the back.  El Salvador will be without a key member of the defensive corps, as Erik Prado sits out for yellow card accumulation.  Players that could fill the bill include Marvin Benitez, the experienced defender from Aguila who is known for his attacking abilities; Rafael Tobar, a teammate of Velasquez at FAS; or Marvin Gonzalez, who played as a sweeper under former coach Juan Paredes.

At the end of the day, their starting XI and formation are a bit of a mystery.  We’ll find out an hour before kickoff like everyone else.  But we do know the strengths and weaknesses of their team very well, and more importantly, we know what we are capable of.  Beyond the hostile crowd, difficult conditions, and whatever other intangibles come our way, this game is about our team performing to the level that we are capable.  In the first two road games we demonstrated that we can persevere; now we must show that we can overcome.  If we do that, we’re confident we can walk out of the Estadio Cuscatlan with three points and one foot in the door to the final round of qualifying.