Coach Bruce Arena made the most of his opportunity to add fresh talent to his side. goalkeepers Brad Guzan and Sean Johnson, midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, Cristian Roldan and Kelyn Rowe, and forward Dom Dwyer headed home. All but Johnson saw the field, and Bruce Arena praised each player’s contributions.
In their place, Arena brought on a variety of veteran play makers: Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. He also added in Houston Dynamo and newly eligible goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez.
All of the additions (save Gonzalez) made the starting XI.
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) July 19, 2017
El Salvador kept its side largely the same with no high profile additions joining the team before the quarter finals. The only swap from its draw with Jamaica was the return of left back Alexander Larín to the starting line-up, giving Los Cuscatelcos its top choice defense.
The majority of the first half featured a number of false starts for the US attack. The existing Gold Cup roster continued to struggle with a cohesive attack, exacerbated by the addition of veterans with their own expectations. El Salvador created its own sets of chances by drawing attention to US physicality and springing forward with their own attacking tandem.
The US had its break near the end of the first half as Michael Bradley delivered an excellent free kick, redirected slightly by Omar Gonzalez. Gonzalez’s strong movement put him in excellent position against El Salvador’s captain, midfielder Darwin Cerén. His header ultimately nudged the ball just beyond the finger tips of Derby Carrillo.
The US continued to make the most of its improved organization and stronger pressure in its opponent’s third. Right back Lichaj’s high pressure put him in position to make a clear run through an open channel towards goal. A clinical Dempsey turn set up the assist to an oncoming Lichaj. The shot slipped under Carrillo’s outstretched leg and gave the US a confidence boost heading into the break.
After the break, the US remained relatively unsettled. Each press forward by the attackers seemed to come undone before the final ball to Altidore or Dempsey. Each advance by Los Cuscatelcos seemed confined to hopeful balls over the top, largely contained by the US defense.
— GJ (@Jumps9) July 20, 2017
The greatest drama came in the 57th minute, when defender Henry Romero was positioned against Altidore on a couple of set pieces. Romero started by groping Altidore’s chest and followed it up by gnawing on his shoulder. After the game, Altidore laughed off the situation, claiming his girlfriend would be upset at Romero’s overly handsy (and toothy) activity. Meanwhile, keeper Howard was a little more pensive, saying “You can’t go around biting people. That’s crazy. [The nipple twisting] should be allowed, but the biting is no good.”
After Romero’s aggressive play, the teams seemed a bit more physical with eachother and a little less threatening in play. Neither El Salvador nor the US looked to do much damage during the game’s final 15 minutes. When the whistle finally blew, it cemented a long-obvious result for the US.
The US travels from Philadelphia to Dallas to prepare for its semifinal at the gargantuan AT&T Stadium on Saturday. It will face Costa Rica who advanced to their its Gold Cup Semifinal in eight years on a late Panamanian own goal.
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