March 28, 2009
EL SALVADOR BOUND
U.S. to try to make it 2 WCQs win in a row
The U.S., riding high after a 2-0 win over archrival Mexico on Feb. 11, can make it two consecutive World Cup qualifying triumphs with a victory over El Salvador in San Salvador on Saturday night (ESPN2, 9 p.m.).
|Landon Donovan is one goal short of tying former U.S. international forward Brian McBride for the most career qualifying goals (10).
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Coach Bob Bradley has called in 10 starters from that match, including the scoring hero of the game, his son, midfielder Michael Bradley (two goals), and midfielder-forward Landon Donovan, the U.S.'s career leader in goals and assists who is one goal short of tying former U.S. international forward Brian McBride for the most career qualifying goals (10).
Donovan is one of four players on the U.S. roster who participated in the Americans' most recent qualifying match in El Salvador, a 2-0 semifinal-round victory on Oct. 9, 2004. The others are defender Frankie Hejduk, midfielder DaMarcus Beasley and forward Eddie Johnson.
A win in El Salvador would give the U.S. two victories before hosting Trinidad & Tobago in Nashville, Tenn. on April 1.
“The games against El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago represent a big opportunity to solidify our place in the group," coach Bradley said. "We had a fantastic team effort against Mexico, and if we put in the same type of performance we are confident of being able to get results.”
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard is suspended for the game after accruing his second qualifying yellow card vs. Mexico. Brad Guzan is likely to start with Marcus Hahnemann as his backup.
The roster will be bolstered by midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, who is back after serving a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation. Defenders Jay DeMerit and Jonathan Spector return from injuries.
El Salvador recorded an important victory last week and it wasn't on the soccer field.
Earlier in the week 23 players left training camp for Saturday's World Cup qualifier, protesting the non-payment of bonuses for reaching the CONCACAF final round.
The players returned to practice on Sunday after an agreement was reached with the El Salvadoran Football Federation.
Federation president Rodrigo Calvo told the media that "the parties reached an agreement which is satisfactory for both."
"Everything's settled," El Salvador captain Sanchez added.
It is too early to tell whether the strike would bring the players together or tear them apart.
But one thing is for sure. If the strike lasted any longer, the El Salvadorans would have been in big trouble against a U.S. side that is bringing in its big guns for the game in San Salvador on Saturday night.
The Cuscatlecos face a must-win situation at home after managing to pull off a 2-2 home draw with Trinidad & Tobago as they overcame a two-goal deficit with two goals by Osael Romero in the final 11 minutes. Including a poor run in the Central American Nations Cup, they are 0-2-2 in their last four matches.
They need to snap out of it or face an uphill battle in their remaining eight games of the hexagonal, especially with an away game in Mexico looming on April 1.
The Salvadorans bring a 12-game winless streak (0-10-2) against the North American side into the match and they haven't scored in six games against their rivals, or since a 4-2 loss on Nov. 16, 1997. Its only win over U.S. was a 2-0 qualifying victory in San Salvador on Feb. 19, 1992. They are 0-4-2 lifetime against the U.S. in qualifying.
"If we feed on positive ideas . . . we can have the confidence to make a good game," coach Carlos De los Cobos said. "We cannot play with fear.”