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September 4, 2009
Donovan: 'We want to be aggressive'

Landon Donovan says the U.S. needs to be aggressive in it's World Cup Qualifier against El Salvador.
Landon Donovan says the U.S. needs to be aggressive in it's World Cup Qualifier against El Salvador.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Sandy, Utah -- For the United States to take control and win its World Cup qualifying match against El Salvador Saturday, the Americans have to be aggressive from the opening whistle.

It's as simple as that, says U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan.

“We want to be aggressive," he said. "If we go out and play tentatively and things don't go our way, we'll be pretty upset. We're going to go out, be aggressive and give everything we have. We're a better team, and if we do that we're going to win the game.”

With only four games remaining in the CONCACAF hexagonal, the U.S. finds itself in a must-win situation at home. The Americans are tied for second-place with Honduras with 3-2-1 records and 10 teams apiece trailing Costa Rica (4-2-0, 12). Mexico (3-3-0, nine) is a point behind. The top three teams automatically clinch a spot for South Africa while the fourth-place team meets the fifth-place side from South America.

The U.S. hasn't lost a home qualifier since a 3-2 defeat to Honduras in Washington, D.C. Sept. 1, 2001. The Americans' next two opponents -- El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago -- in Port of Spain Wednesday -- are at the bottom of the six-team standings with identical 1-3-2 records and five points apiece.

“There's pressure [because we're at home] but there's more pressure because there are four games left and this is the World Cup at our fingertips," Donovan said. "If we lose points in this game or the Trinidad game it's going to hurt us and there's no more room for that.”

The Americans managed a 2-2 draw in El Salvador March 28, scoring a pair of late goals to steal a valuable away point.

“There were parts to the game that we felt should have been better," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "We were certainly pleased at the end, given the challenge of being down two goals on the road, to fight back. That said a lot about the mentality of the team. So that was the big positive.

"You know, we actually started that game pretty well. But we weren’t always sharp enough in the attacking third, and a game can sometimes change a bit on one play. We were attacking because they had a lot of people back, and their first goal came on a counter-type situation where we didn’t react well enough as a team. So we’ll look at all those things, and yet we believe that the improvement in the group over time is a big part of things.”

Bradley did not think the El Salvadorans would throw anything different at the U.S. this time.

“I think that their starting points are the same," he said. "It’s a group of players that’s been together. I think they are well coached and organized. We saw even in a home game that they had a real game plan on how they wanted to play us, and I think that’s one of their strengths in all of their games. So we expect that.”

Donovan expects El Salvador to play it close to the vest.

“They'll be a different team from the one we played there," he said. "They'll probably be very defensive minded and our job is to break them down and try to score a goal early. If we score a goal early it should help us a lot. The longer the game stays at 0-0, the better it is for them.”

The U.S. definitely has more time to prepare for this encounter and the game in Trinidad Wednesday.

For the Aug. 12 game in Mexico City -- a 2-1 loss -- the Americans had a couple of days of practice before flying into the Mexican capital the day prior to the match. This time the U.S. has been able to train several days at altitude.

“In a single fixture date, you don’t really have time in the camp to assess the sharpness and fitness," Bradley said. "The only thing you do when they arrive is prepare them in terms of recovery and travel to play, and of course tactics.

“When you look back on the Mexico game, it’s a difficult game to fully assess in all those ways because of the conditions. So you look at the pluses, and like any game you look at things that could have been better. When you have a double fixture date and the days of training, certainly in terms of seeing where guys stand, it’s a better situation.”
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