Five Things to Know About El Salvador U-17s

On Saturday, the U.S. U-17 MNT takes on El Salvador in its final group stage contest of the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. After its historic 4-3 win against Mexico, the U.S. needs just a draw to ensure a first-place finish in Group C. The game kicks off at 6:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on UDN and the CONCACAF YouTube channel.

Here are five things you should know about the USA’s final group opponent, El Salvador:

The El Salvador national teams are commonly referred to as Los Cuscatlecos, which is derived from Cuzcatlán, the name that the original inhabitants of the country gave to the western part of El Salvador. Today, the Cuscatlán Department is a state in the middle of El Salvador, where the nation’s capital, San Salvador is located. Fittingly, Los Cuscatlecos play their home matches at Estadio Cuscatlán in San Salvador.

Helmed by former El Salvador international Erick Dowson Prado, who coincidently made his senior international debut against the U.S. in 1993, Los Cuscatlecos dropped their first two games of the tournament, falling to Mexico (6-0) and Jamaica (3-1). Eliminated from advancement, Los Cuscatlecos are now playing for pride as they close out their run at the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship on Saturday against the United States. 

The El Salvador U-17 roster is mostly made up of domestic-based players (13), but does feature four currently based in the United States, two in Canada and two unattached. Turin F.C., of the Salvadoran second division has the most representation of any club with five players.

Goalkeepers (2): Jairo Guardado (Santa Tecla FC/SLV), Tomas Romero (Philadelphia Union/USA)

Defenders (6): Giovanni Avila (Santa Tecla FC/SLV), Erick Cartagena (CD FAS /SLV), Diego Chevez (Turin FC/SLV), Diego Guatemala (Santa Tecla FC/SLV), Kevin Menjivar (Turin FC/SLV), Sergio Ramirez (unattached)

Midfielders (9): Christian Barillas (Pateadores SC/USA), Jorge Cruz (CD Once Municipal/SLV), Andy Alas (Turin FC/SLV), Denis Garcia (Turin FC/SLV), Mauricio Gomez (Turin FC/SLV), Ever Guzman (Santa Tecla FC/SLV), Roberto Lopez (CD FAS /SLV), Rodrigo Santamaria (Regina FC/CAN), Allexon Saravia (D.C. United/USA)

Forwards (3): Ronald Cerritos (D.C. United/USA), Rolando Ramirez (CD FAS /SLV), Fernando Villalta (unattached)

Four players on the El Salvador roster are currently playing with clubs in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy: goalkeeper Tomas Romero, midfielders Christian Barillas and Allexon Saravia, and forward Ronald Cerritos.

If the Cerritos name sounds familiar, it’s because it is! Ronald Cerritos is the son of the former M.L.S. striker and El Salvador international who shares the same name. The senior Cerritos remains the San Jose Earthquakes’ all-time assist leader and also played for Dallas Burn, D.C. United and Houston Dynamo from 1997-2006. The younger Cerritos scored El Salvador’s lone goal of the tournament in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Jamaica and features in the D.C. United Academy, along with Saravia.

Romero isn’t too far from the D.C. United pair, as he plays in the Philadelphia Union Academy, while Barillas features for California-based side Pateadores SC.

Since the inaugural CONCACAF U-17 Championship in 1983, Los Cuscatlecos have participated in all but four of the 17 tournaments (1992, 1999, 2013, 2015). The current edition marks El Salvador’s first appearance since 2011.

Having advanced from the final group stage in 1999, Los Cuscatlecos encountered their first do-or-die opportunity to reach the U-17 World Cup, having to face the U.S. in a two-leg playoff for the right to go to New Zealand. A U.S. team featuring future MNT stars Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu overpowered El Salvador over the two legs, winning 6-1 in San Salvador and 4-0 in Columbus to qualify for the World Cup.

El Salvador came close once again in 2011. Finishing second in the initial group stage, they advanced to the quarterfinals where they once again came up against the U.S. After playing to a 1-1 draw in regular time, the U.S. received goals from Mario Rodriguez and Marc Pelosi to edge El Salvador 3-2 after 120 minutes.