SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (March 28, 2009) — Defender Frankie Hejduk scored a header from three yards out in the 88th minute as the U.S. came from two goals down to tie El Salvador 2-2 in a wild match at Estadio Cuscatlán in San Salvador.
The tie gives the U.S. four points through two games of the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying, putting them in sole possession of first place in the hexagonal table.
The focus for the U.S. shifts immediately to Trinidad & Tobago, whom the U.S. will host Wednesday, April 1, at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., at 6:45 p.m. CT. Coverage by ESPN2 and Galavision begins at 6:30 p.m. CT and fans can also follow the action live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker. Ticket sales for that match have surpassed the 16,000 mark, and fans can purchase tickets at ussoccer.com.
"El Salvador played with a tremendous about of energy, and it was our challenge to match it,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. “When we found ourselves behind it took a great effort from our players to fight back and come away with a point. We prepared for this game knowing that El Salvador would be difficult. We found ourselves behind, and that was not part of the plan, and at that point the team spirit and mentality paid off."
After surrendering goals in the 15th and 72nd minutes, the U.S. rallied when El Salvador was forced to change goalkeepers after starter Miguel Montes went down for the second time with cramps in his legs. Two minutes after reserve goalkeeper Juan Jose Gomez came on, the U.S. struck for the first time in the 77th minute.
The setup for the first goal started deep on the left wing, where DaMarcus Beasley played a long ball that Clint Dempsey flicked forward to Brian Ching at the top of the 18-yard box. Ching looked outside and found Hejduk on a trademark overlapping run. Hedjuk was just outside the penalty area when he ripped a cross to the far post, and Jozy Altidore headed it into the net to cut the El Salvador lead to 2-1 with his second career qualifying goal.
The U.S. continued to press, as they did for much of the final 20 minutes, and leveled the score off a set piece in the 88th minute. Danny Califf, getting the start in place of Oguchi Onyewu who was out with a sprained knee, pumped a long ball from the center circle, and a Salvadoran defender headed it away from Altidore and out for a corner. Beasley played the ensuing corner to the near post, where Gomez came charging out, but defender Marvin Gonzalez cut him off and popped the ball to the far post. The 5 foot 8 inch Hejduk was there and held his ground to head it between a pair of defenders and into the net from three yards out.
Hejduk’s goal was his second-ever in a FIFA World Cup qualifier and first in more than 12 years. Although he now has seven career goals, his last in a qualifier came in his first career start on Dec. 21, 1996, in a 2-2 tie with Guatemala, which also was played in San Salvador. The drought of 12 years and 97 days is the longest span in U.S. history, with Tab Ramos previously going eight years and 130 days between qualifying goals between 1989 and 1997.
The goals scored by El Salvador were the first against the U.S. since Raul Diaz Arce tallied twice on Nov. 16, 1997, in a 4-2 U.S. victory in Foxborough, Mass. The U.S. is now 4-0-3 in qualifying and 13-1-5 overall against El Salvador.
With two shots in the first two minutes, the U.S. was playing well and holding most of the possession early on, but El Salvador struck first 15 minutes in against the run of play. Eliseo Quintanilla took control of a bad touch from Beasley in the U.S. third to start the counterattack. He played the ball to Osael Romero, who found Rodolfo Zelaya open on the right wing. Zelaya played a one-two with Quintanilla to get into a small space in front of the U.S. midfielders and cut a pass that got past the foot of a sliding Carlos Bocanegra and found Romero at the top of the 18-yard box. Quintanilla made a slashing run into the space Bocanegra vacated, and Romero played a first time ball into Quintanilla’s path that the former D.C. United midfielder touched to settle behind the U.S. defense and blasted home inside the far post past Guzan.
The USA’s best chance from the run of play of the first half occurred in the 23rd minute. The ball popped up to Dempsey near the top right of the U.S. area and he tried an overhead kick. His half chance bounced in front of the goal where Donovan slashed in and hit a point-blank shot off the chest of the Salvadoran keeper.
With the action back down the field eight minutes later, Guzan kept his team within one goal with a big save. Julio Martinez won the ball in the air over Heath Pearce, and headed it directly into the path of Romero. After a pair of touches, he drove an 18-yard rocket to the far post that Guzan got his fingertips to, tipping it outside the post.
As the half wound down, a Donovan free kick from 21 yards out flew over the crossbar, and a Beasley free kick found the head of Ching who headed the ball inside the far post, but was correctly whistled for offside.
In the second half, the U.S. wasn’t able to muster much of an attack against El Salvador’s bunker, and Bradley began making tactical changes. The first was to bring on Altidore in the 61st minute for Pearce with Beasley now covering defensively on the left in his place. Eleven minutes later, just after Bradley replaced Sacha Kljestan with Jose Francisco Torres, El Salvador exposed the weakened U.S. back line to score their second goal.
Zelaya worked hard on the right wing to eventually beat Beasley to the end line where he drilled a cross into the middle of the area. Cristian Castillo came crashing to the net and timed his jump better than Hedjuk, out-leaping the U.S. right back six yards from goal and heading the ball down and just past Guzan.
After the ensuing goal celebration, the Salvadoran goalkeeper, Montes, went down for the second extended period of time with cramps in his legs, and the hosts went to their bench to bring in Gomez. The long delays for the goalkeeper’s injuries, as well as some other injuries to the host team in the second half, caused the referee to add seven minutes of stoppage time, giving the U.S. nearly 10 minutes to push for the game-winner after Hejduk’s tying goal.
With about three minutes left to play, Altidore held the ball strongly to set up Ching for a close-in shot that was saved by Gomez. In the final minute, Altidore was called for a foul on a flying challenge by Gomez. On that play, the ball popped up in the air to an unmarked Ching, who then hit an on-target bicycle kick that was headed over the crossbar by defender Mardoqueo Henrizuez just before it crossed the line. Right after the ball was put back into play, the final whistle sounded.
For the USA, the match was the second of 10 games in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Elsewhere on Saturday, Mexico topped Costa Rica 2-0 in Mexico City, and Trinidad & Tobago scored a 90th minute goal to tie Honduras 1-1. The U.S. leads the six-team group with four points while Mexico and Costa Rica are right behind with three each. The top three teams in the six-team group qualify for the 2010 World Cup, while the fourth place team enters a playoff with the fifth place team from South America.
The U.S. played the match without first choice goalkeeper Tim Howard, who was serving a yellow card suspension. Onyewu was also a scratch after spraining his knee in training last Wednesday. He could have played with the injury, but was held out with the hope of being 100 percent fit for Wednesday’s match vs. Trinidad & Tobago.
Match: United States vs. El Salvador
Date: March 28, 2009
Competition: FIFA World Cup Qualifying; Final Round
Venue: Estadio Cuscatlán, San Salvador
Kickoff: 7 p.m. MT
Weather: 73 degrees, clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
SLV 1 1 2
SLV – Eliseo Quintanilla (Osael Romero) 15th minute
SLV – Cristian Castillo (Rodolfo Zelaya) 72
USA – Jozy Altidore (Frankie Hejduk) 77
USA – Frankie Hejduk 88
USA: 18-Brad Guzan; 2-Frankie Hejduk, 14-Danny Califf, 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 15-Heath Pearce (9-Jozy Altidore, 61); 16-Sacha Kljestan (6-José Francisco Torres, 72), 12-Michael Bradley (13-Maurice Edu, 95+), 10-Landon Donovan, 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 11-Brian Ching, 8-Clint Dempsey
Subs not used: 1-Marcus Hahnemann, 5-Jay DeMerit, 4-Pablo Mastroeni, 17-Jonathan Spector
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
SLV: 18-Miguel Montes (1-Juan Jose Gomez, 75), 12-Manuel Salazar, 3-Marvin González, 2-Mardoqueo Henríquez, 15-Alfredo Pacheco, 6-Julio Martínez, 7-Ramon Sánchez, 17-Cristian Castillo, 8-Osael Romero, 10-Eliseo Quintanilla (4-Dennis Alas, 82), 11-Rodolfo Zelaya (16-Carlos Ayala, 80)
Subs not used: 5-Luis Hernandez, 13-Deris Umanazor, 14-William Torres, 9-Rudis Corrales
Head Coach: Carlos de los Cobos
Stats Summary: USA / SLV
Shots: 13 / 8
Shots on Goal: 8 / 3
Saves: 1 / 6
Corner Kicks: 4 / 6
Fouls: 12 / 8
Offside: 1 / 0
USA – Michael Bradley (caution) 56th minute
SLV – Cristian Castillo (caution) 57
SLV – Eliseo Quintanilla (caution) 82
Referee: Benito Archundia (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Hector Delgadillo (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Marvin Torrentera (MEX)
Fourth Official: Walter Lopez (MEX)
ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Jozy Altidore