Led by first-half goals from two defenders, the U.S. men’s soccer team defeated El Salvador 2-0 in the quarterfinal round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Team USA advanced to the semifinals against Costa Rica, set for kickoff in Arlington, Texas at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.
Omar Gonzalez, a 6-foot-5 center back, struck a header from between the penalty spot and the 6, putting the ball over the outstretched hands of goalie Derby Carrillo to break a scoreless tie in the 41st minute. Gonzalez scored for the second straight game — giving the U.S. defenders goals in three straight games — with his hit coming off a free kick from Michael Bradley, who lined it up wide left outside the box.
Right back Eric Lichaj scored his first career goal for the U.S. in stoppage time of the first half. Clint Dempsey set it up with a brilliant turn about 25 yards out, sending a through ball to Lichaj who beat a defender on a curved run at the top of the box. Lichaj went one-on-one with Carrillo and placed the ball through the keeper’s legs to make it 2-0.
U.S. coach Bruce Arena, who is 6-0 all-time against El Salvador, utilized the new additions of veterans Jozy Altidore, goalie Tim Howard, Bradley and Dempsey, along with midfielder Darlington Nagbe (who made his Gold Cup debut). The five were among six players added to the team earlier this week. Arena is off to a 7-0-5 start in his first 12 matches since retaking the reins of the U.S. team, bettering the unbeaten mark set by Bob Bradley (10-0-1) during his first 11 matches in 2007.
Howard made a big stop on a breakaway in the game’s third minute and faced mounting pressure in the second half against a physically aggressive El Salvador squad. He is 6-0-0 all-time against El Salvador.