Americans rally for late win

[USA-EL SALVADOR] What can you say about a game in which a goalkeeper makes several outstanding saves, but gifts the other team both of its goals?

And how to evaluate the guy who’s playing out of position, again, commits a howler to hand the opposition a goal, yet does just about everything else well if not brilliantly?

(USA-El Salvador video HIGHLIGHTS.)

The Americans, as they often do, left it very late to beat El Salvador, 2-1, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Wednesday night. Sacha Kljestan stole a ball misplayed by a Salvadoran defender to score the winner in the second minute of stoppage time after playing a one-two with Brian Ching, whose strong but hardly overpowering header had glanced off the hands of Miguel Montes to tie the match.

A team that rolls up an 18-3 edge in shots must have done something right, and for much of the game the U.S. played smartly if not elegantly into the attacking zone, where a shanked shot or ill-advised dribble (Robbie Rogers) squandered an opportunity, or on-target efforts (Kljestan) were repelled by Montes.

Heath Pearce, given the left-back slot with Jonathan Bornstein deployed in the middle with Clarence Goodson, powered up the flank repeatedly and dug into enough tackles to secure that flank for most of the game. Kyle Beckerman took the holding role as Rogers (right), Brad Davis (left), and Kljestan took turns slicing open the Salvadoran back line.

The Americans won their first corner in the first minute and nearly scored from it, but a Salvadoran defender blocked a glancing near-post header by Brad Evans from a Davis corner kick. Evans got to his head from a free kick in the second half and powered another header that Montes dove left to parry. Though they couldn't score on a set play, the U.S. did get a few good shots on the frame.

Forwards Conor Casey and Robbie Findley didn’t get a lot of cracks at goal themselves yet helped carve open chances for the midfielders. Montes twice stopped good low shots from Kljestan in the first half, with balls from Casey and Davis providing the chances.

At halftime, Ching replaced Casey, and Rogers moved to his more natural left side to give Eddie Gaven the right flank. Gaven and Ching found time and space immediately; Rogers got to the end line to drive a cross that Ching had to reach back for, and a great feed from Gaven went wasted when Rogers ran into a tackle.

El Salvador rarely threatened through its own volition, but when Evans – deployed at right back though he plays center mid for Seattle – glanced a Salvadoran long ball into the penalty area back toward keeper Nick Rimando as defensive partner Bornstein came over and overran the ball, Rudis Corrales seized the moment. He tapped the ball past Rimando as the keeper charged out and with barely more than a half hour to play the Americans trailed, 1-0. Otherwise, Evans had a solid outing.

Midway through the second half, Jeff Cunningham replaced Findley, who been bothered in training by tendinitis. Cunningham dropped back into midfield, which gave Ching more space to operate and opened up even wider gaps in the Salvadorans’ central defense. When Pearce powered up the left side past Deris Umanzor and served a bending ball to the near post, Ching stooped to direct a header that caromed off Montes’ gloves into the net.

Ching and Gaven, supported by several teammates, continued to threaten in the final minutes as the tiring Salvadorans defended desperately. Gaven shot wide under pressure after Ching flicked a ball to him over the Salvadoran back line, and Kljestan floated a corner that Manuel Salazar headed away just as Goodson rose to meet it at the back post.

In the second minute of stoppage time, Montes played a ball outside of his penalty area to defender Marvin Gonzalez, who didn’t see Kljestan closing in. Kljestan took it off him cleanly, tapped a pass to Ching was returned, and touched the ball once before pushing it past Montes with his left foot from close range.

Both Ching and Kljestan, as well as Gaven and Goodson and Pearce, helped their quests to make the World Cup squad, but they – as well as everyone else – will get a better idea of where they stand when Coach Bob Bradley chooses the players to face the Netherlands next Wednesday in Amsterdam. In a postgame interview Bradley said a few domestic players could be included on what will be a mostly European-based roster.

Feb. 24 in Tampa
USA 2 El Salvador 1. Goals: Ching 75, Kljestan 90; Corrales 59.
USA -- Rimando, Evans, Bornstein, Goodson, Pearce, Rogers (Cameron, 87), Kljestan, Beckerman (McCarty, 79), Davis (Gaven, 46), Findley (Cunningham, 68), Casey (Ching, 46).
El Salvador -- Montes, Escobar, Gonzalez, Flores, Sanchez, Romero (Alas, 71), A.Alvarez, Corrales, Salazar, Umanzor, Moscoso.
Referee: Silviu Peterscu (Canada).
Att.: 21,737.


What did you think of the U.S. performance? Who helped their chances of making the World Cup team? Who hurt their chances? Let us know.

7 comments about "Americans rally for late win".
  1. Ryan Fordham, February 25, 2010 at 9:05 a.m.

    I don't care how well Kljestan played against El Salvador, he simply cannot hack it against strong European or South American opposition. I know he's Bradley's favorite, but surely he's already had his shot (and failed) and it's time to give someone else a chance in South Africa, i.e Torres!

  2. Kerry Ogden, February 25, 2010 at 9:45 a.m.

    I just wanted to congratulate the US Mens National Team for their win against El Salvador with an almost all MLS Player backing,the future is looking good for American soccer players. The question I have is after watching the US men compete during the Confederate Cup, ConCaCaf Gold Cup many friendlys with other nations is that every referee seems to be against the US Mens team or seems to be one sided in their judgements towards US players. I have seem many times when US players are carded for a foul and then the other team will commit a foul that should warrant a card and the ref acts as nothing has happened. Last nights game was a clear example of that,for those's who watched there were several times when El Salvadorians should have recieved a yellow and two instant where a red card should have been issued. It leaves me wondering if the US National Team fate is already set for the FIFA cup later this year seeing that the can't get fair reffing during a game.

  3. Robert Rizzuto, February 25, 2010 at 10:08 a.m.

    Ryan, if only Bradley would give Torres a chance! He's just the type of skilled, attacking player we need, and for the life of me I can't understand how he hasn't been given more opportunities.

    Kerry, you're definitely right about last night's ref; there was a tackle from behind on Heath Pearce that should have been a straight red.

    Regarding the article, I have to take issue with the rating of Brad Evans. While you certainly have to take into account his playing out of position, you still have to rate his play itself in that position. "Did everything else well, if not brilliantly"? He was repeatedly outclassed, and out of position, in the first half. And regardless of what position you naturally play, to try a header to your goalie in traffic in your own box while moving at speed towards the end line? He did hit some very nicely weighted long balls down the right flank in the second half, but as of now he's not up to the international game, at least at that position.

    OK, I'll be done in a minute, just one more thing. It was great to see Heath Pearce playing so well again. When he's on he's a real threat, and he was on last night. I saw him play against Argentina at Giants Stadium, and in that match he was absolutely fantastic. If he can regain that form, Bradley should have a very hard decision for a starting left back. Thanks for listening!

  4. Matthew Reber, February 25, 2010 at 10:21 a.m.

    I hope we show well at the World Cup, but I am nervous for this squad. The lack of consistency - both in player selection and player performances is astonishing. Taking in the totality of matches played as preparation for the Cup leaves me with no definitive answers. Unfortunately I did not get to see this match due to my zeal for the Olympics, but the last match against Honduras was an absolute embarrassment. I don't care who was unavailable to play, the style was putrid. We were so anxious to dribble and take on players 1 v 1 we looked like a team with no team concept. If the US is to be successful, we must come to the conclusion that we are not the team with the most talented individuals, but if we play a little smarter - emphasizing possession and balance with stalwart defending, we can hang around and nic one. I would love to see us play from a 2-touch mentality, instead of dwell, dribble, and lose possession.

  5. Matthew Reber, February 25, 2010 at 12:50 p.m.

    Robert, complete agree about Pierce. I saw him at Giants Stadium, as well, and was wondering why he became so scarce after that. How did Beckerman do ? I think he has real potential, but doesn't seem to fit with anyone in the midfield (chemistry).

  6. Robert Rizzuto, February 25, 2010 at 1:20 p.m.


    Beckerman was his usual self: tenacious, with an endless motor, flying around the field (kind of like Frankie Hejduk). But you're right, he didn't really gel with the other players. He also wasn't making those incisive dangerous passes that he was making at the Gold Cup last year. And without that passing component, I think he doesn't bring nearly as much to the team as other central midfielders (like Clark, and Edu if we ever get him back from injury).

  7. John Singer, February 25, 2010 at 4:02 p.m.

    I disagree, Ryan. I think Klejstan deserves a more thorough look with the A team. When he is confident he brings alot to the table. I have given up on Robbie Rodgers--such wasted tools. This was not a good test against an out of shape side with a beer league keeper, and that brought no pressure on the ball. This was a scrimmage. Conor Casey has gotten a lot of minutes with USA and I have yet to see him be productive, interesting, or comepetent.

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