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Winners And Losers: USA Versus El Salvador

In their second-to-last match before Bob Bradley announces the World Cup roster, the United States Men's National Team beat El Salvador 2-1 on a wet pitch at Tampa Bay, Florida's Raymond James Stadium. Second-half substitute Brian Ching netted first for the Americans while Sacha Kljestan tallied the game-winner in stoppage time. For many of the almost entirely Major League Soccer-based squad, it was the last chance to impress the U.S. coach in person.

Note: For the purposes of this column, players with little to no chance of making the roster won't be included no matter how well (Eddie Gaven and Brad Davis) or poorly (Brad Evens) they played or absent (Marvell Wynne) they were.

Winners

Brian Ching


The Houston Dynamo attacker opted out of the American's January camp to rest, recuperate, and prepare for a World Cup push. The plan worked. Although Ching only played 45 minutes, he was by far the most active U.S. striker and made an immediate impact. He looked a step quicker than he did at the end of last year and controlled well with his chest and head. He had two good chances before the hour mark, but neither could find the frame. Ching's workrate was rewarded, however, when he headed Heath Pearce's inch-perfect cross into the back of the net. Minutes later, only a deft parry by El Salvador goalkeeper Miguel Montes -- who was fantastic until the final moments of the game -- kept Ching from the brace. It was an impressive return to the Stars and Stripes.

Heath Pearce


With customary left back Jonathan Bornstein starting alongside Clarence Goodson in the center of the U.S. backline, the FC Dallas defender had a chance to impress. And shine he did. Pearce, like the rest of the Americans, didn't have much to do on the defensive end -- although he handled those responsibilities capably -- but he looked strong running up and down the left flank. His assist to Ching was one of a handful of excellently struck crosses. In the first half, Pearce and Brad Davis exchanged nicely and easily passed around and through El Salvador's defense. Pencil him into one of the 23 roster spots, even though Bornstein remains ahead of him on the fullback pecking order.

Sacha Kljestan

After struggling through 2009, Kljestan needed to make a dramatic statement. His late goal, finished expertly, may have done so. That said, the Chivas USA talent missed golden opportunities in the 31st and 40th minutes, the kind of chances the Americans absolutely need to capitalize on to make any noise in South Africa. Kljestan and Beckerman dominated the midfield all match long and showed the ability to maintain possession. He transitioned from a defensive role to an attacking one with skill, but made some questionable decisions with the ball at his feet. All and all, it was a solid performance from the midfielder. It won't put him on the team, but it will help.

(Honorable mention: Robbie Rogers, Jonathan Bornstein, Kyle Beckerman, Clarence Goodson)


Losers


Robbie Findley


The Arizona-born forward came off in the 68th minute after an hour of relatively anonymous play. Findley proved he's fast, but that skill alone isn't enough against the world's best sides. (It wasn't even enough to break down El Salvador.) The on-the-cusp striker needed better service, but didn't do much when he was on the ball. On occasion, he blew by a member of the opponent's backline and showed excellent body control in the 62nd minute to turn a Selecta defender and race towards goal but he didn't have the wherewithal to do anything further. He generally struggled to impact the proceeding. Jeff Cunningham replaced Findley moments after he picked up a knock. The dearth of strikers will help his case, but the performance in Florida won't.

Conor Casey


The big Colorado Rapids striker took some time to run into the match. When he did, Casey looked strong in the air, flicking on and redirecting targeted balls in the offensive third while tracking back on the defensive end as well, specifically on an El Salvador free kick in the 25th minute. He struggled to link with Findley, but played a wonderful square ball to Kljestan and another one to Beckerman that got caught up in the Real Salt Lake midfielder's feet. Still, Casey proved once again that he can't beat anyone on the dribble and, on a night when Ching showed he's fresh and ready, Major League Soccer's second-leading scorer didn't demonstarte anything new.

Chad Marshall


Where was the MLS Defender of the Year? It wouldn't make sense to pair him with Goodson, but it was surprising not to see him at least split time with the IK Start centerback. Bornstein might do okay against a weak Central American side, but he's not the answer at the World Cup. Marshall's absence speaks volumes about Bradley's faith in the Columbus Crew stalwart. (Unless he was injured. But if he were hurt, would Marshall be included on the game-day roster?)

Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com and will be reporting from the World Cup in South Africa.