Though it’s been a few years, the U.S. Men’s National Team meets a familiar foe when it takes on El Salvador in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinals.
Wednesday’s meeting at Lincoln Financial Field will mark the 23rd meeting between the nations and come almost four years to the day of the last, a 5-1 U.S. win at the same stage of this tournament in 2013.
That victory moved the USA’s dominant record against Los Cuscatlecos to 16-1-5 all-time, with a perfect 5-0-0 edge in CONCACAF Gold Cup play. And though the USA’s only loss occurred in a
2-0 friendly defeat 25 years ago in San Salvador, Bruce Arena’s side is focusing on the here and now against the Central American nation.
That part has been pretty good, according to the U.S. boss.
“I think they’ve played some of the best football in the Gold Cup so far,” Arena said about El Salvador on Monday. “They keep the ball on the ground, they move it, they’ve got a good quickness in the attack, their strikers are of quality, their wide players are very good, so they’re going to be a difficult team to play against. They’re very aggressive in the attack, good quickness getting out on the break, good quickness defending, so I think it’s going to make for a good game.”
“They’re a very good team, and I think the coaches are very impressed with the team they have,” Omar Gonzalez said in echoing Arena’s comments. “They said that this isn’t going to be a light game. We saw video them yesterday, and I think we all came away impressed and will be prepared for a good match tomorrow night.
El Salvador opened the tournament with a tough 3-1 loss to Mexico, but rebounded to earn a
2-0 win against Curaçao before a tight 1-1 draw against Jamaica in its Group C finale.
The pacey El Salvador attack is led by Portuguese-based striker Nelson Bonilla, who tallied against Mexico and Jamaica, as well as long-time Cuscatlecos forward Rodolfo Zelaya, who scored the second goal in the win against Curaçao. The team is bolstered in midfield by a trio of players with various connections to U.S. clubs: Darwin Ceren (San Jose Earthquakes), Andres Flores (New York Cosmos) and former Chivas USA player Gerson Mayen.
“We saw a team that, in my opinion, are one of the better teams than they’ve had in the past,” said Altidore about El Salvador’s Group Stage performance. "They’re a good team -- quick, very technical, and so by all means it won’t be an easy game. It’ll be a game where we have to really focus and try to get a result.”
Altidore joined the U.S. roster after the Group Stage along with fellow veterans Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard, adding firepower to Arena’s side as it heads into the do-or-die portion of the tournament.
“It’s nice to have fresh legs,” he said. “We’ve been in this competition several times, and like I said before El Salvador has one of the better teams that they’ve had in the past, but obviously in this region we’re one of the bigger teams and our obligation, our mindset has to be to win the game.”
Those reinforcements join a U.S. squad that improved its performance every match in the Group Stage and heads into the Knockout Round full of steam for what’s still ahead, beginning of course with El Salvador.
“I think everyone here is confident that if we step on the field, are organized, play our game, play to our strengths and limit chances in front of goal, that we can get a favorable result,” Gonzalez said. “We have to focus on that.”