The United States will have to be on their guard in their Gold Cup quarterfinal in Baltimore on Sunday when they on a country with recent pedigree in upsetting the U.S.’ best-laid plans. El Salvador stunned the U.S. Under-23 side last year with an injury-time goal that ended U.S. expectations of qualifying for the Olympics. Several members of that team are included in the young squad that Jurgen Klinsmann has utilized during the Gold Cup.
Perhaps the most high-profile of those is Brek Shea. The Stoke City midfielder has not enjoyed the best times of late and was particularly poor before being hauled off in a 4-1 win over Cuba. But Shea was given another chance off the bench against Costa Rica and responded by scoring the only goal.
So far there have been plenty of positives to be had with the U.S. claiming victories in all three group matches to establish an all-time record eight successive wins. There is much incentive for many of those involved to put themselves firmly in Klinsmann’s thoughts for next year’s World Cup, but captain DaMarcus Beasley believes everyone is focused on the job at hand.
“We are playing for a championship,” he said, according to the US Soccer website. “This is something that we can achieve as a group, a chance for these 23 guys to do something special as a team together. The guys know that. We have some young guys, some inexperienced guys, and guys getting their first caps and first goals. For us, it’s a group that has a lot of potential. No one here is focused on trying to make a World Cup roster. All we are worried about is trying to win a Gold Cup final.”
Klinsmann has taken the risk of disrupting the group unity by making all of the four permitted changes to his squad after the group phase. Defenders Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler, as well as forwards Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson have replaced Oguchi Onyewu, Herculez Gomez, Corey Ashe and Jack McInerney. Gonzalez won’t join up from the L.A. Galaxy until a potential semifinal, however.
El Salvador made it through to the last eight after finishing as one of the two best third-place teams having taken four points from a group involving Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti. Agustin Castillo’s side will look to forward Rodolfo Zelaya, who scored three goals in the group stage.
D: Parkhurst, Goodson, Besler, Beasley
M: Beckerman, Holden
Corona, Donovan, E. Johnson
El Salvador (probable)
D: Garcia, Turcios, Posadas, Henriquez
M: Menjivar, Ceren, Romero, Flores
F: Blanco, Zelaya
Prediction: It is easy to see why Klinsmann decided to boost the center of his defense after some less than secure performances. Besler is likely to go straight into the lineup on Sunday and should provide a boost. Eddie Johnson, meanwhile, could also be handed a start on the left after Shea and Jose Torres both failed to wholly convince so far. The U.S. may not have things all their own way, especially in front of a crowd that is likely to largely in support of their opponents, but, with Landon Donovan becoming increasingly influential, they should still progress.
USA 2-0 El Salvador
Where to watch: The Gold Cup quarterfinal will kick-off from the MT Bank Stadium in Baltimore at 4 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2 Go.