Goals by Altidore and Dempsey helped the USA to a comeback victory.
Buoyed by the strong support of Salvadoran fans, El Salvador came out with an air of confidence for this match and started off in an aggressive attacking style. The visitors opened the chances in the sixth minute off of a dangerous free kick just outside of the penalty area. Striker Rodolfo Zelaya managed to get ahead of the surging group of players as the ball was delivered, but just missed getting his right boot on the end of it.
The U.S. side had their first real chance in the ninth minute when forward Charlie Davies broke free into the box, but his shot attempt was from a low angle and the 'keeper Miguel Montes easily covered it.
In the 28th minute, Davies showed some sizzle with a nice step-over move. He pushed the ball towards the endline and delivered a low ball through the penalty area. Dempsey picked up the pass, but his shot went well wide.
The El Salvadorans had a stretch where they looked extremely dangerous and they would capitalize on that in the 32nd minute with a goal by Christian Castillo. The goal came off of a nice cross by Zelaya form the right side of the box. He made a fake to the right and then stepped back left before delivering the cross right to the head of the waiting Castillo who easily put it past U.S. 'keeper Tim Howard.
Just a minute later the U.S. nearly gave up another goal as defender Jonathan Spector gave the ball away in the U.S. half. The mistake ultimately led to a shot by Zelaya but it struck the crossbar.
After that point, the Americans seemed to settle down and created the bulk of the opportunities in the half. They had several consecutive attacking chances but the equalizer would come in the 41st minute. Donovan had a free kick from 35 yards out. His bending ball connected with the head of a diving Dempsey, who put the ball in the back of the net.
Just four minutes later the U.S. had a similar play, with a similar result. Although not a set piece, this time the cross from Donovan found the head of Altidore who easily put it away. After some nervous moments midway through the half, the U.S. team managed to escape the half with a goal lead.
The second half started out much more scrappy as both sides realized what was at stake going down the stretch in this one.
In the 55th minute, El Salvador was looking for a penalty kick as Zelaya reached the ball inside the box just in front of a prone Bornstein who appeared to chop at the back of his legs. Zelaya went down on the play, but referee Jose Pineda motioned “play on.”
Just a few minutes later, Altidore appeared to score and both he and Dempsey spent a few moments celebrating in the south end of the field, but a late whistle had been blown indicating a foul up field, and the play resumed with a restart. The U.S. side seemed to be confused by the play, but scrambled to get back defensively.
In the 87th minute, El Salvador nearly managed an equalizer as they delivered a cross into the box that found its way to an attacker who put it on frame, but the shot found Howard, who nervously collected it.
The frantic end to the half continued with a couple of U.S. chances as they countered on the pressing El Salvador side. In the 89th minute, they nearly connected on one of those opportunities. Stuart Holden, who had come on for an injured Davies, carried the ball along the right flank and delivered a quality cross into the box. As the ball hung in the air, another second half substitute, Jose Francisco Torres, raced forward to get on the end of it and his header was a bullet but went directly to the 'keeper.
The U.S. was able to escape with the 2-1 victory. Coach Bradley was pleased with their reaction after the El Salvador goal, “The best part was the response when we went down. In the second half we had some opportunities to get that third goal, which is always important, and when you don’t sometimes you have to rely on a big save, which we got from Howard.”
This practically ends El Salvador’s World Cup hopes. For the U.S., they move forward in good position, and next play at Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday.
Randy Davis, Goal.com
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