U.S. Snatches Late Winner to Down El Salvador 2-1

The Americans dominated El Salvador for most of the game in Tampa last night, outshooting Los Cuscatlecos 18-3, but a combination of poor finishing, great goalkeeping by El Salvador’s Miguel Montes, and an error by U.S. right back Brad Evans had them trailing 1-0 with just 15 minutes to play.

In the 59th minute, Evans, who plays in central midfield for his club, Seattle Sounders FC, headed a Salvadoran long ball back into the U.S. box, leaving Rudis Corrales with an easy chance against U.S. keeper Nick Rimando, and the Salvadoran took it. Apart from this gaffe, though, Evans had a decent outing.

Brian Ching and Eddie Gaven had injected new life into the U.S. attack since coming on after the break, and it was Ching who equalized in the 75th minute, powering in a header after an excellent cross from left back Heath Pearce, who had a strong game.

The match entered stoppage time and appeared headed for a 1-1 draw when Montes sent a pass to defender Marvin Gonzalez about 35 yards out from the Salvadoran goal. Gonzalez seemed unaware of any U.S. pressure around him, and Yank midfielder Sacha Kljestan closed in and dispossessed him easily, then played the ball to Ching, took Ching’s return pass into the box and buried the ball in the far corner from seven yards.

You can watch the highlights here.

Players ratings to follow.

Feb. 24, 2010; Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.

U.S. 2, El Salvador 1.

Goals: Corrales 59; Ching 75, Kljestan 90.

United States: Rimando, Evans, Bornstein, Goodson, Pearce, Rogers (Cameron, 87), Kljestan, Beckerman (McCarty, 79), Davis (Gaven, 46), Findley (Cunningham, 68), Casey (Ching, 46).


El Salvador: Montes, Escobar, Gonzalez, Flores, Sanchez, Romero (Alas, 71), A.Alvarez, Corrales, Salazar, Umanzor, Moscoso.

Backpost Preview: U.S. vs El Salvador

The U.S. takes on El Salvador tomorrow night in Tampa (ESPN Classic, Galavision, 7:00 p.m. EST), suiting up a roster of 19 MLSers and one foreign-based player.

The bulk of these players will not be called in for the friendly against the Netherlands on March 3, and by the time the Nats face the Czech Republic (May 25) and Turkey (May 29), the World Cup squad will be picked, so this will be their last opportunity to impress U.S. coach Bob Bradley at the international level.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

Numbers:

The U.S. is 14-1-5 all-time against El Salvador, including 11-0-2 at home. They’ve outscored Los Cuscatlecos 45-13 in their 20 matches.

The U.S. won 2-1 in the last meeting between these two, in a World Cup qualifier at Rio Tinto Stadium on September 5, 2009.

El Salvador will suit up four U.S.-based players, three of whom play in Major League Soccer and one, the San Jose Earthquakes’ Arturo Alvarez, who has played for the U.S. at the youth level.

The other Stateside Cuscatlecos are midfielders Osael Romero of Chivas USA, Ramon Sanchez of San Jose, and Edgar Alvarez, Arturo’s brother, an uncapped midfielder who played for San Jacinto Community College in Houston.

U.S. Contenders for South Africa 2010:

There’s probably only one player in this group who’s a very good bet for South Africa at this stage, and that’s left back Jonathan Bornstein.

Strikers Brian Ching and Conor Casey, midfielders Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan, and Kyle Beckerman, and defenders Chad Marshall and Clarence Goodson are all on the bubble. A good performance here will certainly boost their stock, but a bad one—against a lightly regarded opponent that has never won on U.S. soil—could send it plunging through the floor.

Yank Long Shots:

Injuries to striker Charlie Davies and midfielder/striker Clint Dempsey have created opportunities for strikers Robbie Findley and Jeff Cunningham, but both have only outside shots at this point—especially Cunningham, who had a weak outing against Honduras last month.

Winger Brad Davis is not out of contention, but with the recent surges in form of left-sided midfielders DaMarcus Beasley and Freddy Adu—and Rogers’ ability to play either wing—he’s got his work cut out for him.

Defender Marvell Wynne remains in line behind Steve Cherundolo and Jonathan Spector for the right back position, and will have to rapidly improve his touch and crossing ability to change that.

Consider left back Heath Pearce on standby for the plane to South Africa, with Bornstein, Spector, and Carlos Bocanegra all holding tickets in front of him. He’ll need a stellar spring with FC Dallas, and a canceled reservation or two, to make the trip.

Players We’d Like to See (Even If they’re Not Going to South Africa):

Twenty-four-year-old Houston Dynamo stalwart Geoff Cameron is big (6-3), skilled, and can play in central defense or midfield. This is second camp with the U.S., but he has yet to receive a cap.

D.C. United’s Chris Pontiusnot to be confused with the MTV daredevil of the same name—was one of the best rookies in the league last season. He made the jump from UC Santa Barbara to MLS without missing a beat, notching four goals and three assists in 23 starts. 

While it’s hard to imagine either one—especially the 22-year-old Pontius—making the 2010 World Cup team, it would be interesting to see what they can do at the international level, and this is probably the last chance to find out during this cycle.

Probable starters:

GK: Troy Perkins

Defenders: Marvell Wynne / Clarence Goodson / Chad Marshall/ Jonathan Bornstein

Midfielders: Robbie Rogers / Kyle Beckerman Sacha Kljestan / Brad Davis

Strikers: Brian Ching / Robbie Findley

Prediction: U.S. 2, El Salvador 0

Goals: Ching, Rogers.

Break Up the Cottagers!

Fulham stunned Manchester United 3-0 on Saturday, getting its second goal just after halftime when American Clint Dempsey knocked down a Damien Duff cross directly into the path of Bobby Zamora and the in-form striker made no mistake about it from about eight yards.

Danny Murphy had opened the scoring in the 21st minute with a strike from distance after dispossessing Paul Scholes, and Zamora later set up Duff for the third, in the 75th minute.

Here are the highlights:

The impressive win stretches Fulham’s home unbeaten streak to six. The West Londoners are also unbeaten in their last five games, home or away, and sit ninth in the table, just one point behind Liverpool, with a game in hand on the scousers.

Brad Friedel and Aston Villa continue to make a genuine push for a Champions League spot, getting three points from what we in the U.S. would call a “trap” game against Stoke. Having achieved impressive road wins over Manchester United and Sunderland in the past week, Villa did not let down its guard against mid-table Stoke on Saturday, grinding out a 1-0 win on John Carew’s 60th-minute header from a great cross by Ashley Young.

The Villans have won four in a row and have been beaten just once in their last 12 games. They remain tied for third with Arsenal, which rolled over Hull 3-0 on Saturday. Jozy Altidore did not dress for Hull.

Marcus Hahnemann continued to make his case for a spot on the U.S. World Cup roster, and Wolves coach Mick McCarthy was vindicated for his decision to start essentially a second team against Man U last week, as Wolves downed Burnley 2-0 at home. Hahnemann made five saves in the game, and Wolves moved three points clear of relegation in a very crowded bottom half of the table, where only five points separate 12th place from 20th.

Tim Howard went the full 90 in Everton’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham.

Jonathan Spector sat the bench (again) as West Ham drew first-place Chelsea 1-1. Both goals were scored from the spot, with Chelsea’s Frank Lampard having to take his kick three times due to encroachment.

In the Championship, Jay DeMerit got another start for Watford, but his team fell 2-1 to Peterborough United, and Frank Simek came off the bench for a 36-minute appearance in Sheffield Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Swansea City.

In Scotland, DaMarcus Beasley continued to demonstrate his resolve to be on the U.S. charter flight to South Africa next June, scoring a goal and setting up another as Rangers trounced Motherwell 6-1. Here are some more grainy, pixillated highlights from the Highlands (or rather, east of Glasgow):

Yanks of note in the Bundesliga, Michael Bradley and Steve Cherundolo, both started and played 90 minutes and both suffered 3-2 losses. Bradley and Borussia Moenchengladbach fell to Bayer Leverkusen, while Cherundolo and Hannover 96 lost to Vfl Bochum. Loss aside, Cherundolo, with his regular PT, is probably nosing ahead of Spector for the U.S. right back spot right now, as Spector hasn’t seen the field in a couple of weeks now.

American Toffeemen

Landon Donovan’s loan to Everton is official, and will make him the fourth American to play for the club, following Joe-Max Moore, Brian McBride and current goalkeeper Tim Howard.

How will he stack up? Let’s check the record:

Tulsa Roughneck: the Oklahoman was the first Yank at Everton.

 

Joe-Max Moore is perhaps not as well remembered as he should be among U.S.  fans: He scored 24 goals in 100 appearances for the national team, including the winner in a 1-0 upset of Argentina in 1999. For Everton, he got off to a cracking start, bagging a goal in five straight games at one stretch, and finishing his debut season with eight.

Appearances: 44

Goals: 10

Highlight: An injury-time equalizer against Tottenham in January 2000 in his second full game with the club.

Fan Favorite? The site “ToffeeWeb.com” refers to him as a “nippy little Yank”—is that a backhanded compliment, or a direct insult?—with an excellent attitude and impressive work rate.

Grade: B+

McBride left ’em wanting more at Merseyside.

 

Brian McBride lived a charmed life in England, whether he was suiting up for Preston, Everton, or Fulham. Much like Moore, he got off to a white-hot start at Everton, scoring four goals in his first five games. But he was only with the Toffees on a two-month loan, which was not renewed.

Appearances: 8

Goals: 4

Highlight: Goal against Spurs in the first ten minutes of his debut.

Fan Favorite? An Everton chat-room denizen gives him an ‘8’ out of 10, and Toffee supporters are well aware of what he went on to do at Fulham, where the Cottagers have named a pub after him. He’s one that got away.

Grade: A-.

Howard holds the Everton season record for clean sheets.

 

New Jersey native Tim Howard is in his fourth season with Everton and already on the path to legendary status. He set the club record for clean sheets last year (16), and has racked up six of them this year. On Dec 6 he saved a stoppage-time penalty from Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe to preserve a 2-2 tie for the Toffees.

Appearances: 158 and counting.

Goals: n/a

Highlight: In April 2009, saved two penalties during FA Cup semifinal shootout against his former team, Manchester United, sending the Toffees to the final vs Chelsea.

Fan Favorite? Most already rate him the club’s No. 2 keeper all-time, behind Neville Southall.

Grade: A

Donovan could suit up for Everton against Arsenal on January 9.

 

Many observers have suggested that the Premier League is too rugged for a relatively small (5’ 8”) player like Landon Donovan, but that wasn’t a problem for Moore, and Donovan is much faster and more athletic than Joe-Max ever was. He’s also hungry to finally prove himself abroad, and if the pressure that goes along with that (it’s his fourth stint over there, after all), or fatigue, don’t prove too much for him, there’s no reason he can’t shine for the Toffees.

Best of U.S. Soccer — 2009

The 2009 Best of U.S. Soccer Awards are trickling in, and the honor for Best Assist goes to….

Donovan’s laserlike through ball is a worthy winner, for sure, but we wouldn’t have argued if the prize had gone to Charlie Davies for his perfect pass into the path of LD on the U.S.’s lethal counterattack goal against Brazil in the Confederations Cup final last summer.

They won’t announce the winner for Best Goal until tomorrow, but we’d be very surprised if that one didn’t get the nod. Check it out (again):

U.S. Depth Chart—Six Months to South Africa

Where does Torres stand?

Tomorrow will mark exactly six months until the U.S. meets England in its 2010 World Cup opener in Rustenberg. Which Yanks will be suited up for the historic game against the Motherland? Needless to say, a lot can change between now and then, but here’s what the U.S. depth chart looks like to us right now, with comments and a potential late-blooming candidate for each position:

Goalkeeper:

1. Tim Howard—Mortal lock if healthy.

2. Brad Guzan—Has shown poise and ability every time he’s been called upon by club and country.

3. Marcus Hahnemann—About to get his third straight start for Wolves.

11th-hour candidate—If one of the above picks up an injury, Troy Perkins.

Right back:

1. Steve Cherundolo—He’s rounding into form, and his experience gives him a slight edge for the top spot here.

2. Jonathan Spector—Athletic, calm on the ball, and swings in a decent cross. (Can also play centerback.)

3. Frank Simek—He’s healthy again and starting for Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship. Good signs for his chances.

4. Frankie Hejduk— Hejduk looked horrendous in the November friendlies, but he’s a good bet to bounce back, and he’s a good locker-room guy, with plenty of experience. Could rise on this chart.

11th-hour candidate—It’s difficult to imagine him going to South Africa, but Marvell Wynne is an astounding athlete with a freakish ability to recover when beaten.

Centerbacks:

1. Carlos Bocanegra—Injuries to Onyewu and DeMerit have put him at the top.

2. Jay DeMerit—He’s back to fitness and will get his first start of the season with Watford tomorrow.

3. Jonathan Spector—Looked comfortable in this spot in the November friendlies. Edges Chad Marshall due to his versatility.

4. Oguchi Onyewu—With a bullet. If his torn patella mends in time for him to reach match fitness, he goes straight to the top. (And Bocanegra becomes a left back, in our view.)

11th-hour candidate(s)—There are a number of guys waiting in the wings, including Chad Marshall, Clarence Goodson, Jimmy Conrad and potential darkhorse Geoff Cameron.

Left back:

1. Jonathan Bornstein—Sigh. Nothing against Bornstein, but he is not quite a finished-product, ready-to-start-against-England left back yet. But he’ll do until someone better comes along.

2. Carlos Bocanegra—Moves to the top of the list if Onyewu recovers, and Bradley can start the backline that played against Spain in the Confed Cup last summer.

3. Heath Pearce—We almost put a question mark next to his name—that’s how thin the U.S. is at left back.

4. Edgar Castillo—Let’s see him play here; maybe he’ll move up the chart.

11th-hour candidate—Jonathan Spector. He’s played LB at West Ham. We might prefer him over Heath Pearce, even if he’s not naturally left-footed.

Right midfield:

1. Clint Dempsey—Unless Bradley decides to play him up top, this spot is his.

2. Stuart Holden—Not out of the question that he would start, in above scenario.

3. Robbie Rogers—His speed and versatility (he can play on the left, too) give him the nod here. Big year coming up for Rogers.

4. Sacha Kljestan—Was in the mix as a potential starter not too long ago.

11th-hour candidate—Jose Torres (if he ever gets a clear chance to show what he can do).

Central midfielders:

1. Michael Bradley—He’s won back his spot at Moenchengladbach, and he’s a box-to-box guy.

2. Ricardo Clark—Coach Bradley chose the Bradley-Clark pairing most often in 2009.

3. Benny Feilhaber—Had a good summer; poised and skilled on the ball.

4. Maurice Edu—Recently started training with Rangers after months on the shelf. Set to rise here.

11th-hour candidate—Jermain Jones has had yet another injury setback, but if he can get healthy in time for Bradley to bring him in to a camp, many observers swear he’s a lock for the team. We’ll see.

Left midfield:

1. Landon Donovan—He can play on the right as well, or as a withdrawn forward. One thing is certain: he’ll be on the field if he’s healthy.

2. Jose Torres—He’s shown flashes of skill in his U.S. cameos. We’d love to see more.

3. Robbie Rogers—As we said, can play on both sides, though he’s a natural lefty.

4. DaMarcus Beasley—Don’t count him out. He’s battling to get back into the first team at Rangers.

11th=hour candidate—Edgar Castillo. He played here in his one brief U.S. appearance thus far.

Strikers:

1. Jozy Altidore—He’s starting regularly at Hull, and is such a handful for defenders that he has to be out there.

2. Brian Ching—Strikes us as more dynamic than Conor Casey. Best target forward we have at the moment.

3. Conor Casey—Came up huge in Honduras, but can he do it Rustenberg?

4. Robbie Findley—His raw speed would trouble any defender, but he’s inexperienced at the international level.

11th-hour candidate—He recently vowed that he’d be healthy in time, and if so, Charlie Davies would probably make the trip, even if he was a little rusty. It would certainly be inspiring for team morale. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey can also both play up top.

So there you have it. Did we miss anybody? Do you disagree with our rankings? Let us know in the comments.