U.S. disjointed but keeps its cool in eliminating El Salvador from Gold Cup
The United States again fought through a less-than-convincing performance to best a weaker opponent in a 2-0 win over El Salvador in a Gold Cup quarterfinal in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
The Americans managed to keep their cool and fight through the scandalously physical game played by the Salvadorans. Doubling down on the opening goal put them in position to manage the rest of the game and book a place in the semifinals. Both full-backs made their marks on the match, pushing into the attack or providing penetrating possession up the wing.
Again, the U.S. labored against an opponent it was expected to handle fairly easily, especially with the changes made to the roster and lineup. At various points in the match, El Salvador battered the American defense, and had it not been for some poor finishing by the Salvadorans, the hosts might have been in much bigger trouble. Passing was again lax and lazy too often. Turnovers were a problem.
Manager rating out of 10
5.5 -- Arena's lineup choices probably fed into the underwhelming performance. The lack of speed at center back exacerbated issues the Americans have had handling the counterattack. Paul Arriola's energy provided little on the right side. Though Dempsey proved important on the second U.S. goal, the forward's lack of mobility hampered the attack for the first 40 minutes. Arena fared better with his substitutions.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best -- players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Tim Howard, 7 -- Came off the line and made a crucial save early after a poor giveaway by Eric Lichaj gifted El Salvador a chance. Only asked to make one save.
DF Eric Lichaj, 7 -- Recovered from his early mistake and grew into the game. Made an excellent full-field run after starting the U.S. move to score the second goal.
DF Matt Hedges, 4 -- Guilty of several fouls in dangerous areas. Too aggressive with the ball both on runs and with his passing while his turnovers put the Americans in danger on several occasions.
DF Omar Gonzalez, 5.5 -- Showed excellent strength to shrug off a shirt tug and score the opening goal. Defensively, wandered too much and struggled to communicate properly with Hedges.
DF Justin Morrow, 6 -- Pushed up into the attacking half as a passing option and did well in that area. Caught out defensively once or twice but also recovered when required.
MF Paul Arriola, 5.5 -- Worked hard throughout but lacked an edge needed to make that work matter. Popped up in good positions only to have a shot or pass let him down.
MF Michael Bradley, 6.5 -- Hit the brilliant free kick that turned into a Gonzalez goal. Did yeoman's work in midfield. Not spectacular but solid.
MF Darlington Nagbe, 6.5 -- Started slow but improved over the course of the first half. Dropped to good effect to enable possession. Looked more comfortable when starting out wide and drifting into the middle.
MF Gyasi Zardes, 6 -- Had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside. Was otherwise inconsistent, with every good moment matched by a bad touch or wasted cross.
FW Clint Dempsey, 7 -- Made the play and the pass that released Lichaj for the second goal, showing again why it's hard to leave him out. Struggled to find space in first 30 minutes but was more influential as the game wore on.
FW Jozy Altidore, 6 -- Kicked and punched -- and even bit -- all night long. Allowed his frustration to affect his game and was limited in this ability to contribute.
FW Jordan Morris, NR -- Immediately paid off as a sub with a run that nearly resulted in a goal. Settled into his ad hoc two-way midfielder role nicely.
MF Kellyn Acosta, NR -- Provided energy and aided in pressing the ball but was also prone to turnovers.
MF Chris Pontius, NR -- Got on the ball a few times in his cameo and helped see the win through.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.