The USA managed to reach the Gold Cup semifinal while playing the least amount of laudable soccer possible in a 2-0 win. Defenders provided both goals in the victory over El Salvador. Omar Gonzalez hit the net with a header in the 41st minute and right back Eric Lichaj finished in first-half stoppage time.
USA Player Ratings:
Player (Club) Caps/Goals
6 Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids) 116/0
Made a big save in the third minute when he batted the ball away from Rodolfo Zelaya at the edge of the penalty area.
5 Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG) 13/1
Right back nearly gifted El Salvador an early goal with a weak back pass to Zelaya and struggled with one-on-ones. His best moment came on the other end of the field, scoring the second goal with sharp finish that nutmegged keeper Derby Carrillo.
5 Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX) 43/3
Passed poorly like his teammates, didn’t seem to click with central defense partner Hedges -- but scored a big goal, heading home despite Darwin Ceren climbing up his back.
3 Matt Hedges (FC Dallas) 5/0
Gave El Salvador a dangerous free kick by mugging Zelaya after getting roasted at the edge of the penalty area in the first half. Set up one of El Salvador’s best second-half chances by delivering the ball to Narciso Orellana.
3 Justin Morrow (Toronto FC) 3/0
Beaten on an early El Salvador attack and badly misjudged a long pass from the Salvadoran half that led to a 58th-minute chance.
4 Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy) 35/6
Robbed by an offside call in the 16th minute. Forays down the left were a key part to the U.S. attack but proved fruitless.
4 Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) 134/17
He delivered the free kick that Gonzalez headed home but, as one of the veteran reinforcements called in for the knockout stage, did not inspire. His rare passes to the front line were off target and mainly he as served fifth defender.
4 Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers) 18/1
After the Salvadorans dominated for the first 15 minutes, Nagbe came alive and created some U.S. attacks. Although the best at bringing the play forward, he was never truly dangerous.
4 Paul Arriola (Tijuana/MEX) 9/2
The right midfielder took the first U.S. shot, deflected for a corner in the third minute, and worked hard to make himself available. But was also plagued by a propensity to give the ball away.
3 Jozy Altidore (Toronto
Gave away the ball frequently, once under-hitting a pass when Zardes was flying unmarked into the penalty area. Took weak shoots from poor angles. Called for fouls for knocking over markers he couldn’t evade.
4 Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) 135/56
Too many poor touches, like when he banged Morrow’s throw-in out of bounds. But he nicely set up Lichaj’s goal with a precise pass after spinning past Henry Romero, providing a rare bit of impressive skill in a dismal game.
3 Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), 18/4.
Hardly got near the ball in his 24-minute appearance.
3 Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas)
Failed to bring any cohesion to U.S. midfield after arriving in the 71st minute.
NR Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), 5/0.
Replaced Nagbe with three minutes left.
(Ratings: 1=low; 5=middle; 10=high.)
TRIVIA: The win gives Coach Bruce Arena a 7-0-5 start in his second stint at the helm -- the longest unbeaten run for a U.S. coach at the beginning of his tenure, exceeding the 11-game unbeaten streak under Bob Bradley in 2007
July 19 in Philadelphia
USA 2 El Salvador 0. Goals: Gonzalez (Bradley) 41, Lichaj (Dempsey) 47+.
USA — Howard, Lichaj, Gonzalez, Hedges, Morrow, Zardes (Acosta, 71), Bradley, Arriola (Morris, 66), Nagbe (Pontius, 87), Altidore, Dempsey.
El Salvador — Carrillo, Romero, Mancia, D.Ceren, Pineda (Sanchez, 78), Bonilla (Alas, 83), Mayen (O.Ceren, 57), Zelaya, Orellana, Larin, Tamacas.
Referee: Drew Fischer (Canada).
Yellow cards: USA -- Nagbe 21; El Salvador -- Mancia 18, Larin 59, Romero 81.
STATS: USA/El Salvador
Shots on target: 8/1
Corner Kicks: 5/1