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Match Report

U.S. Beats El Salvador, 5-1, In a Gold Cup Thriller

El Salvador kept it interesting for the first hour, but the United States showed its superior talent and leadership in defeating the visitors 5-1 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md.
BY John Godfrey Posted
July 21, 2013
6:06 PM
The 5-1 scoreline might suggest the United States men's soccer team humiliated El Salvador Sunday afternoon. It did not.

The visitors scrapped and clawed and played the Americans tough for the better part of an hour, eventually wilting under the Maryland heat and succumbing to the superior competition.

Five different players—Clarence Goodson, Joe Corona, Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson, and Mix Diskerud—scored for the Americans in an exciting show of offensive skill. With the 5-1 victory, the U.S. advances to the semifinal round of the 2013 Gold Cup.

The U.S. scored its first goal on a bit of corner kick trickery. You could see Landon Donovan and Jose Torres discussing the play beforehand, and their strategizing paid off. After taking a short corner, Michael Parkhurst found Donovan in the right channel and the U.S.'s all-time assist leader delivered a lovely cross to Clarence Goodson, who slammed the ball home.

The Americans dominated possession throughout the half, but El Salvador was periodically dangerous on the counter. U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando made two brilliant saves in the 26th minute to preserve the lead, the first coming off the right foot of Rodolfo Zelaya and the second off a rebound that fell to El Salvador's Darwin Ceren.

Rimando's second save, a full-extension effort, was especially good, as the ball seemed destined for the back of the net.

The U.S. made it a two-goal lead in the 29th minute thanks to a nice piece of interplay between Donovan, Chris Wondolowski, and Joe Corona. Afer some deft one-touch passing, Corona deked an El Salvador defender—who slid past and out of the play—and then calmly slotted the ball to the right of El Salvador keeper Dagoberto Portillo.

Up by two goals, it looked as though the Americans were heading toward a blowout. And when Portillo was forced into another brilliant save in the 37th minute—again off the foot of Corona—U.S. victory seemed inevitable.

But then everything changed.

El Salvador striker Rodolfo Zelaya, who came into the match with three goals in the tournament, received a pass on the left edge of the penalty area and proceeded to dribble past three American defenders. A fourth American, DaMarcus Beasley, bumped into Zelaya, a penalty was called, and El Salvador was back in business.

Zelaya's cheeky penalty kick, a Panenka shot slowly straight toward the goalkeeper, rippled the net when Rimando dove to his left. The thrilling first half ended with the U.S. leading El Salvador, 2-1.

El Salvador came out for the second half as if shot from a cannon. Pushing forward, La Azul y Blanco gambled to get back in the contest, and it nearly cost them on several occasions early in the second half.

Klinsmann made his first substitute of the match in the 60th minute, taking off Chris Wondolowski in favor of Eddie Johnson, and it paid off immediately. Johnson's first touch of the match came on a corner kick from Landon Donovan less than 30 seconds after entering the contest. The well-struck header flew into the El Salvador goal and gave the Americans a 3-1 lead.

For the next 15 or so minutes, El Salvador fought valiantly to get back into the match, but either gave the ball away in the final third or scuffed good chances. And then, with just over 10 minutes to play, the Americans put it away.

Having lured El Salvador forward, the U.S. broke on the counter. Johnson flicked a long pass into Donovan's path, and the resurgent attacker dribbled around Portillo and slipped the ball into the back of the net to give the Americans a 4-1 lead.

The Yanks piled on toward the end, as a demoralized El Salvador all but surrendered. Mix Diskerud scored the Americans' fifth goal off a Donovan cross, and several more chances probably should have gone in for the U.S., but did not.

Next up for the Stars and Stripes: A Wednesday semifinal match against the winner of Sunday's Costa Rica—Honduras quarterfinal at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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