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El Salvador's Texan ready to face USA
by Ridge Mahoney, September 3rd, 2009 7AM
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[WORLD CUP QUALIFYING] Being from Mexico, where many cities are parked more than a mile in the sky, El Salvador coach Carlos de los Cobos knows the effects of altitude. Since the team arrived earlier this week in Salt Lake City to prepare for the Hexagonal match Saturday against the USA, the coach has trained his team for the effects of altitude, though the 4,200-foot elevation much is less than what is encountered in places like Mexico City and Toluca. One player familiar with the conditions is San Jose midfielder Arturo Alvarez, who represented the U.S. at youth levels but has successfully petitioned to change allegiances to El Salvador, the birthplace of his parents.

Alvarez was born and raised in Houston. He debuted for El Salvador in its last match, a 1-0 loss to Trinidad & Tobago, whose goal was scored by current Quakes teammate Cornell Glen.

The 24-year-old Alvarez played for the U.S. U-23 national team, but did not make the final roster for the 2008 Olympics. He was named to the U.S. roster for the 2005 U-20 World Youth Championship, but suffered a groin injury and was replaced by Freddy Adu.

As a youth player in Texas, he played for Texas Premier FC, and for St. Thomas High School and Mayde Creek High School.

El Salvador's home defeat to T&T has taken some luster from a home Hexagonal victory over Mexico, and coupled with a 2-2 tie against the USA after it had led, 2-0, rendered the Salvadoran situation as desperate. With a 1-3-2 record and five points, and just four games remaining, El Salvador must get at least a point in each game to have any chance of finishing as high as fourth and qualifying for a playoff against the South American fifth-place finisher.

"When I made this decision I knew that if I was called into the team, someday I would probably play against the United States," said Alvarez, a native of Houston, earlier this year. "In MLS, there are players from different national teams who play together, and they all seem to get along."

The U.S. team includes Landon Donovan and Brian Ching, who played with Alvarez during his first stint with San Jose in 2003 and 2004. He played four seasons in Dallas, and came back to San Jose last year. Quakes teammate Ramon Sanchez and Red Bulls defender Alfredo Pacheco are also in the squad.

A full week of training, say the Americans, should help them in their quest to win Saturday as well as next week in Port of Spain against T&T, which is tied with El Salvador at the bottom of the six-team group.

"This is nice when you have the 10-day fixture date," said defender Carlos Bocanegra on U.S. Soccer's Web site program, Studio 90. "You get a week of training. The guys that came in, if they played Sunday or whatever, it's a little bit easier to recover.

"We'll have a good week of training, El Salvador's a big game for us, we need three points at home, and Trinidad is a big game for us as well. We're confident we can go down there and get three points."

Said defender Steve Cherundolo, "It doesn't really matter how we play. In qualifiers, it's all about points."

After three days of work designed to sharpen conditioning and acclimation to altitude, specific preparations and tactics for the Salvador game will begin Thursday. There are 23 players in camp, with the status of striker Conor Casey, whose wisdom teeth were removed Monday, still to be determined.

"I'm sure we'll have a lot of the ball against El Salvador, and they'll put a lot of people back," said Bocanegra. "We just need to not get over-anxious, and leave ourselves exposed in the back by committing too many numbers forward, and then when we do get our chances, finish them.

"We're confident we'll go out there and get the job done."


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