The USMNT, featuring nearly all MLS players, notched its first win since early October with a come-from-behind, 2-1 victory over El Salvador in Tampa Bay.
Following a familiar script against lesser foes, the US controlled most of the game, struggled in the offensive third, conceded a goal against the run of play and then came to life.
When the US last faced El Salvador in Rio Tinto Stadium in September it was a Jonathan Bornstein miscue that led to a goal by Los Cuscatlecos with the US dominating. Tonight it was Brad Evan’s defensive gaffe that produced the lone Salvadoran goal in one of the few forays into the box for the visiting team.
Though this match could be better called an audition for a few remaining World Cup spots, it was nice to see the US finally finish strong behind second half substitute Brian Ching. The Big Aloha’s head produced the equalizer off a Heath Pearce cross while his feet provided a one-touch assist to Sacha Kljestan who put home the game winner in stoppage time.
The win will play well on Sportcenter (hopefully) and is a good thing for a program coming off three lackluster performances. However, it should be noted that the Salvadorans play made one wonder if they stayed out late last night at the infamous Tampa Ballet. Well that, or maybe they just didn’t care.
The more significant story for the USMNT is whose performance got them one step closer to packing their US Soccer duffel for South Africa. Of the 13 World Cup hopefuls Matthew mentioned in the preview…
5 boosted their stock…Brian Ching, Robbie Findley, Sacha Kljestan, Clarence Goodson and Heath Pearce
2 held their spot…new Captain Jonathan Bornstein and versatile Robbie Rogers
2 didn’t help or hurt their chances…Kyle Beckerman and Jeff Cunningham
1 took (another) step backwards…Conor Casey
3 never saw the pitch (which probably isn’t a good thing)…Chad Marshall, Troy Perkins and Chris Pontius.
Before jumping to conclusions, it’s worth remembering the level of competition in this match and reading Bob Bradley’s post-match comments about Ching-Casey, the Netherlands roster selection and the World Cup roster.
» Best Play of the Game: The Sacha Kljestan game-winner. El Sal’s Gonzalez mental mistake combined with Kljestan’s effort led to an odd-man rush by the USMNT. Mr. Victoria’s Secret then laid off a pass to Ching who dropped a nice one-touch back to Klestan for the finish.
One question: Was it me or did Montes (SLV’s keeper) look like he got shot in the back? He started to challenge SK, then dropped to his knees prematurely and fell down. Either way…it was a great give-and-go.
» Most Unheralded Play: Conor Casey struggled on offense playing the first 45 minutes, but his defensive effort kept El Salvador off the scoreboard midway through the first half. The visitors sent a free kick deep into the box that look destined to allude the defense in favor of an on-rushing Custcatleco. Just before the ball dropped at the far post, Casey rose up and used his noggin to get the US out of danger.
» Golden Shinguard: A number of candidates, but TSG is going with The Big Aloha. Ching scored and assisted on the two US goals and was a consistent target for the attack in the second half. Granted he could have been marked better, but that’s not his fault.