US SoccerUS Soccer

Onalfo Scouting Report on El Salvador

The semifinal round is just one game in, and already these upcoming matches become crucial.   El Salvador is leading the group after an impressive 2-1 win home to Panama in a game in which they played the entire second half a man down.  The victory provided a huge boost to their confidence, and has energized their fan base heading into this weekend’s game.

Nonetheless, El Salvador has had an up-and-down year in 2004, posting a 2-3-1 record in their last six games.  We expect them to bring a very defensive approach to the game, defending with numbers behind the ball and looking to get at us on counter attacks.  One area of particular effectiveness for the Salvadorans is attacking restarts, where they have been efficient in scoring goals.  In their last six matches, five of six goals scored have been on restarts, so in this area we must stay alert.

Their formation varies between a 3-5-2 and a 4-4-2. The strength of their team lies in their experience and their technical ability.  El Salvador likes to keep possession of the ball and looks for small combination play.  They possess a well-balanced attack that varies between playing through the middle and trying to serve balls into the box through flank play.

In terms of personnel, the side is led by team captain Victor Velasquez, who is probably their best overall defender.  He’s very good on the ball, tenacious in the tackle, and is excellent in the air at both ends of the field.  Alfredo Pacheco, their left back, is left-footed, a strong tackler, and likes to get forward out of that position to provide service into the box.

Central midfielders Gilberto Murgas and Jorge Rodriguez (a former Dallas Burn starter) orchestrate the play through the middle of the park.  Both are very good passers and are solid at breaking up plays.

One of their most talented forwards is former MLS striker Ronald Cerritos, who is coming off a very good performance against Panama.  A very experienced player, he makes excellent runs off the ball and has a good nose for the goal.  He is one of their main threats in the air, and will fight to win balls all over the field.  

There’s no doubt that our attitude on Saturday is to get three points.  We have prepared ourselves for the possibility of a large number of Salvadoran fans in Foxboro, but the team is extremely well focused and looking forward to the challenge. We’ve had a solid week of preparation, but the truth is the players are really anxious to get on the field and take care of business.  They don’t need to be told how big a game this is, and they are ready.