A misplay three minutes into Wednesday night’s 2-0 Gold Cup Quarterfinal win against El Salvador could have dictated a different path for the game.
Defender Eric Lichaj’s seemingly innocuous back-pass for Tim Howard was too soft, allowing El Salvador attacker Rodolfo Zelaya a clean lane towards goal before the veteran U.S. goalkeeper alertly came off his line to clear the danger.
“I told Tim thank you after the game,” Lichaj said. “He got me out of the dirt there.”
Just before halftime, Lichaj earned redemption in spades. Finding himself in the unusual position of being higher up the field than normal, the right back made a darting run towards the area where Clint Dempsey deftly hit him in stride. Taking a touch into the box, the Nottingham Forest defender blistered his first international goal through the legs of El Salvador goalkeeper Derby Carrillo to send the U.S. into halftime up 2-0 and eventual into the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals.
“I couldn’t remember the initial bit, but I was high up and I just thought I would continue my run,” Lichaj said about his positioning. “It was a good play, and I think it was Justin [Morrow], Gyasi [Zardes] and Clint. Clint ended up turning in a good position on the pitch and he just slipped me in. I shot low and hard at the goalkeeper and we got our second goal.”