El Salvador opens campaign as longshot

El Salvador opens the Hexagonal Wednesday against Trinidad & Tobago as the longshot to claim one of the three automatic berths to the World Cup 2010 finals. The Cuscatlecos are coming off a disastrous Digicel Uncaf Cup during which they won only one of five games and were accused of laying down against Costa Rica in the semifinals.

Three players went down injured early in the second half after El Salvador already had two players, former D.C. United attacker Eliseo Quintanilla and Alexander Escobar, sent off and made its three substitutions. El Salvador, was trailing, 1-0, in the 60th minute when the injuries left it with only six players left on the field. Panamanian referee Roberto Moreno awarded the game to Costa Rica, 3-0, by forfeit.

The debacle prompted reports that El Salvador's Mexican coach Carlos de los Cobos was ousted, but they proved to be false.

A 1-0 win over Peru Wednesday in Los Angeles improved the mood in the Salvadoran camp.

El Salvador has the most inexperienced team in the Hexagonal. Only former Cal State Northridge star Edwin Miranda, who spent last season with the USL-1 Puerto Rico Islanders, is based abroad.

Efforts to enlist the San Jose Earthquakes' Arturo Alvarez, born to Salvadoran parents, were thwarted because he had already represented the USA at the 2005 Under-20 World Cup and is too old, at age 23, to switch allegiances.

Quintanilla and Rudis Corrales are expected to lead the Salvadoran attack against T&T.

EL SALVADOR ROSTER:
Goalkeepers: Juan Jose Gomez (Luis Angel Firpo), Miguel Montes (Nejapa).
Defenders: Marvin Gonzalez (FAS), Alfredo Pacheco (FAS), Alexander Escobar (Isidro Metapan), Ricardo Alvarado (Isidro Metapan), Luis Hernandez (Aguila), Luis Anaya (Alianza).
Midfielders: Deris Umanzor (Aguila), Shawn Martin (Aguila), Eliseo Quintanilla  (Aguila), William Torres (Aguila), Ramon Sanchez (Alianza), Christian Castillo (Alianza), Oscar Jimenez (Alianza), Salvador Coreas (Vista Hermosa), Osael Romero (Vista Hermosa), Edwin Miranda (Puerto Rico Islanders, USL-1).
Forwards: Rudis Corrales (Aguila), Cesar Larios (FAS), Carlos Ayala (Chalatenango), Rodolfo Zelaya (Alianza), Jose Martinez (Alianza).

U.S. RIVALRY:
El Salvador has never beaten the USA in six qualifiers. Its only favorable result with something on the line was in the game known as the "Nightmare at the Soccer Park" -- a 0-0 tie in St. Louis that left the Americans needing to beat Trinidad & Tobago in their final game to qualify for the 1990 World Cup.

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