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September 5, 2009
U.S. survives El Salvador in WCQ, 2-1

Jozy Altidore connected for the game-winner against El Salvador.
Jozy Altidore connected for the game-winner against El Salvador.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
SANDY, Utah -- Despite giving up the first goal of the match, the United States stormed back with two goals in the waning minutes of the first half and held on to register 2-1 victory over El Salvador in a vital World Cup qualifying match at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night.

The win gave the Americans (4-2-1) 13 points in the CONCACAF final round group heading into Wednesday night's encounter at Trinidad & Tobago. Results of the Costa Rica-Mexico and Honduras-Trinidad & Tobago match were not in as the U.S. game was completed.

The U.S. was not playing at all cylinders as they were sloppy at times and almost allowed El Salvador (1-4-2, five) to take control of the game and equalize in the second half.

Clint Dempsey scored the equalizer late in the first half, and Jozy Altidore added the go-ahead goal two minutes into stoppage time.

"This is what qualifying is all about," Altidore said after the game. "It's never easy."

The Americans got off to a so-so start, and El Salvador drew first blood in the 32nd minute. Jonathan Bornsteinís poor right wing clearance went to Rodolfo Zelaya at the top of the box. Zelaya sent the ball to Christian Castillo, who headed it past goalkeeper Tim Howard from the penalty spot.

Things didn't look very good for the U.S. after the Central American side took the lead, as Howard was called on to save an eight-yard shot by Eliseo Quintanilla from the left side. However, Dempsey finally managed to equalize in the 41st, heading Landon Donovanís long free kick past goalkeeper Miguel Montes from eight yards.

Donovan again played playmaker in stoppage time. This time the Los Angeles Galaxy star sent a left-wing cross to Altidore, who headed it home from eight yards for a 2-1 advantage just before the halftime whistle.

"It was important we had some momentum going into the second half," Altidore said.

Altidore thought he scored an insurance goal for the U.S. in the 58th minute, after Dempsey tackled the ball away from a Salvadoran player. But the play was whistled dead for reasons that remain unclear. Perhaps the referee felt Dempsey had committed a foul. Replays showed that he was clearly onside.

The U.S. did have a number of chances before it scored.

Dempsey sent a 12-yard shot, off a Charlie Davies feed, from the left-wing corner, wide right in the 28th minute.

Davies almost equalized as he sent a six-yard attempt wide right in the 35th minute.

Right fullback Jonathan Spector, trying to find the same magic he and Dempsey had produced with a goal in the 3-0 win over Egypt in the FIFA Confederations Cup, sent an air ball into the penalty area in 39th minute that Dempsey just missed getting to in front of the goal.

Only a minute later, Altidore fed Davies in the penalty area. Davies sent a shot that was cleared off the line by an El Salvadoran defender.

The U.S. was fortunate not to be burned by another instance of sloppy play. The Salvadorans almost took advantage of an American error, but Castillo was denied in the 64th minute.

The Americans suffered a potentially devastating loss in the 72nd minute, when Davies went down with a leg injury, reportedly to the outside part of his left calf. It was not immediately known whether Davies would be available Wednesday against T&T.

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