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El Salvador 2-2 USA: CONCACAF Personified

beasley-vs-slv AP Photo

If you missed this match, you missed something special. The US with their backs against the wall in a hostile atmosphere came through with two incredibly skillful goals to draw in El Salvador 2-2. This match had everything for skeptic of football or the eurosnob who looks down on CONCACAF.

A great crowd, fired up home side and a talented away side made this an exciting match. I applaud those of you who went to support your local MLS teams tonight but pity the fact you couldn’t cheer our national side on in a critical qualifier, and hope you were able to DVR this game.

Tonight left us with so much to be proud of and yet so much to be concerned about. to quote Charles Dickens,” it was the best of times and the worst of times. ”

The truth is that this is a good result for the US. El Salvador now has gained two points at home in the Hexagonal, erasing a two goal lead in one match and coughing up a two goal lead in the other. Who said CONCACAF isn’t competitive? Oh, that was your local eurosnob so obsessed with England’s friendly with Slovakia or UEFA qualifying they hardly noticed this match was taking place.

Other Thoughts:

  • The second I found out Gooch was a scratch tonight I began to adjust my expectations. A draw on the road  in qualifying given the absence of two of the US’ four best players is a good result.
  • Bob Bradley’s tactics were simple and disturbing tonight. Bradley didn’t make adjustments either to his tactics at halftime and the US came out in the second half flatter than the first. Finally some adjustments were made which sparked the US, but the coaching was poor, and the comeback was thanks to the grittiness and determination of the players.
  • Notice the Miami FC signage on the side of the pitch? I certainly did and believe it is because of Traffic Sports relationship as CONCACAF’s match promoters. I will be meeting with the Miami FC brass early this week and will ask about it, but as far as placement for promoting a club, those are some of the best ads I’ve seen in years. USL-1 had advertised in a similar fashion at another qualifier but with 11 club names scattered around the pitch it was hardly noticeable. Miami FC’s ads were much better done.
  • Heath Pearce had a nightmare of a game on the left side of defense much as he did in Guatemala last August. He is clearly a better player at home than away from home.
  • Sacha Kljestan was borderline awful in this game. I don’t want to get our MLS/USL fans upset but Kljestan and Brian Ching were the only two US players  in action tonight who have never played outside MLS (Kljestan) or MLS and USL (Ching). They were also the two least effective American players on the pitch tonight. That could be a coincidence, or a sign of both domestic leagues stagnation.
  • DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan did some nice things in the first half to try and break down a stubborn El Salvador defense, but were unsuccessful. Same for Clint Dempsey early in the second half.
  • Brad Guzan’s command of his box and brilliant saves kept the US from being three or four goals down when the comeback began.
  • Jose Fransisco Torres had a huge influence over this match. He should be a regular at central midfield.
  • Jozy Altiodre is almost un-markable in CONCACAF. Either his markers are too small, or less athletic than him. While he may be stuggling on the club level, that should not stop Bob Bradley from relying on him going forward.
  • Franie Hejduk is still the one. The best US player in World Cup 1998 and one of the best in World Cup 2002 is still one of the best. His grit and heart personify US Soccer.
  • Carlos Bocanegra as he so often is when Oguchi Onyewu is not there to cover for him was absolutely woeful at the back. Danny Califf played better than Bocanegra although he had some issues communicating with Brad Guzan.
  • Michael Bradley gave the ball away too much today. That tends to be the pattern for Bradley on the road, while he plays brilliantly at home.
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  1. RF Interference

    March 31, 2009 at 1:13 am

    Right on, Jacques.

  2. Jacques Strappe

    March 30, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I agree with TFC, once countries get any good at anything they should be forced to relinquish their advantage. That’s why I currently support England, Italy and France being broken into several smaller teams while Sweden, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland should be added to the Portugal team. I mean, why should Spain be allowed to win Euro while their peninsulamate suffers from a lack of hardware? We all know it’s because Spain has roughly 4.5x the population of Portugal. Brazil, with ~200 million people, should be broken down into lesser countries while Argentina can merge with Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay…actually let’s just say all of South America outside of Brazil should unite as one team, since Brazil’s population is almost exactly half of the continent’s total population.

    That first post that said that the US, if broken into four nations, would not be able to beat Mexico is absolutely right, partly because there would be no more United States of America in that scenario. But why stop there? If Mexico were broken into five or six different countries, they would no longer beat up on Canada, a country with only 1/3rd Mexico’s population, so why don’t we do this as well?

    Basketball and gridiron are completely different situations and are not dominated because of population differences. USA dominates basketball because we played it for several decades before other countries even tried catching up to us–after many started trying, it wasn’t long before losses at the Olympics and Worlds started accumulating. Same thing happened to Canada’s hockey, and it would have happened even without the rise of the Soviet squad. Gridiron’s almost never played internationally, and until recently there had never even been a US side. Might as well complain about Australia dominating Australian rules football, or Afghanistan dominating Buzkashi. The reason a lot of Central American and Caribbean countries don’t keep up with our football team is because they’re playing baseball, oftentimes better than the United States plays it. I suppose this means that the US and Canada baseball teams should merge, perhaps also with the Dominican Republic and/or Puerto Rico, because it’s unfair how we lose most international competitions to Cuba, Japan and Korea. Or is it only “the right thing” to unite when it’s done to counter potential United States success?

  3. Dennis

    March 30, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Let’s face it, there were few players on the US side that had a decent game. Bocanegra, Beasley, Hedjuk, and Pierce combined to give away the goals. Donavon and Dempsey failed to see space to the outside and constantly tried to take the ball into 3 or 4 defenders. Klestian was just bad. Bradley at least made few errors defensively. Califf gave some anxious moments, but ElSalvador failed to capitalize. Ching did hold up the ball well (his job and he did it), but he failed to score when given the chance and his offside was a waste of a good chance. Hedjuk’s crosses were mostly not very good, but he finally placed one well. Altidore did well and Torres looked like the only real talent on the US side. I give Guzan a B, he saved those he should and made at least one decent save.
    Bocanegra, Peirce, Beasley, Kleistian,and Donavon get F’s.
    Califf, Dempsey get D’s
    Bradley, Ching, Hedjuk get C’s
    Flores, Altidore and Guzan get B’s

    Coaching, D, Did not get players to attack wide (mostly I fault the players for not seeing this, but the coach should have taken things in hand at half-time).
    Also Bradley should seen that Kleistian, Pearce and Beasley were having real bad days sooner than he did.

  4. Joey Clams

    March 30, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Bradley will make the comfortable choices and that fact will kill the team. Arena did the same thing AFTER learning that daringness is rewarded in the WC. Califf, a good guy, has never impressed me. Pearce is shaky. Boca really should be eased out.

    Hey, Bob: You have talent. Use it. Surround it with veteran leadership. It’s what got you a point on Saturday, after all.

  5. Samantha

    March 30, 2009 at 1:06 am


  6. LI Matt

    March 29, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Injuries happen. Maybe we don’t give up the first goal if Gooch is playing.

    Claiming the US didn’t “deserve” a draw is pretty pointless to me. The result is in, let’s move on.

  7. Kartik

    March 29, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Question about those ads. Did USL pay for the ones or did Miami FC pay for those?

    Miami FC/Traffic Sports took out all the ads. USL/UMBRO did not pay for any of them.

    I’ll have more on Miami FC and Traffic in lieu of the splash they made last night later this week on the website and podcast.

  8. Lance MSK

    March 29, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Where do I even start?

    No tactical sense

    Guys bunched up

    No spacing

    Bad Giveaways

    No one making creative run

    No imagination

    The look of fear in most of our guys eyes


    Question about those ads. Did USL pay for the ones or did Miami FC pay for those?

  9. Eric

    March 29, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    To the people trashing El Salvador, world rankings and FIFA rankings don’t mean anything. The US was ranked 4th going into 2006 if I recall correctly. El Salvador is in the hex because they have a good team, beating Panama just to qualify for the 2nd round.
    The facts are that the US is not Germany, and El Salvador is a good team. They came out excited and ready to go. If the US can get points on the road in the federation with the toughest for all the wrong reasons venues, then it is a victory.

  10. Soccer Guru

    March 29, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    It is much easier to play with a reserve keeper if you’ve known since Feb 11th that Guzan would have to play. El Salvador lost two points and we gained a point because of the keeper getting hurt.

    We were pathetic. No linkup play at all. Pearce was better than many thought but because Beasley is so bad, and I mean so bad out wide, he couldn’t get into the game.

    This team right now needs to integrate Adu and Torres immediately if we are going to play at any sort of respectable level next year in South Africa. Another failure in a World Cup will stifle the growth of the game in this country?

    Another thing. I’d be curious to see how much the ratings for last night were cannabilized by MLS playing at the same time.

    Nice Miami FC billboards. Point made- point taken. Miami FC is a club of the Americas. The Florida derby restarts next year with the Rowdies and Miami FC!

  11. Angry USA Fan

    March 29, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Incredibly disappointing performance. Lets say we were lucky to come away with a draw. Yeah, it was the ‘hostile’ away and not Ohio. But when can we get a bunch of natural footballers with an innate feel for the game on the pitch? Hejduk and gang aint it.

    Bradley can only do so much. Our players lack the quality or skill. That’s player development and that’s down to the USSF, MLS, etc.

  12. Earl

    March 29, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Maybe Bradley should play more MLS guys because clearly the European based players aren’t cutting it. But to appeal to eurosnobs and MLS haters like Kartik he has done nothing but give a middle finger to the league.

    I firmly believe MLS top to bottom is one of the best leagues in the world. Would San Jose or the Galaxy beat West Brom or Gladbach. No question about it. It is not even debatable.

    Yet some like Kartik run down our league while glorifying the accomplishments of our players in Europe, half of which never play and a second division club made up entirely of Canucks! I’m happy Santos came back and beat Montreal, it stopped all that Impact is great, USL is great talk from this site. Now with three Mexican teams and one Caribbean team left, USL like MLS is out and now instead of saying how great USL is you start attacking MLS.

    For the record MLS should play through international breaks. In those countries they don’t have more than one sport and the grounds are always available. If tickets are printed with a date and time you cannot change it. Besides it is the club that pays a player and not the national team. You seem to not realize that. His commitment should always be club first. These national team games are glorified exhibitions where guys could get hurt and owners could lose huge investments in players.

  13. LI Matt

    March 29, 2009 at 11:24 am

    … we scored both goals against a reserve goalkeeper …

    We played 90 minutes with a reserve goalkeeper. what’s your point?

    do you recall a match against an inferior Central American opponent………..Costa Rica does not count!…………where we played this badly under Arena?

    RFK Stadium, Sept 1, 2001. USA 2 Honduras 3.

  14. Todd

    March 29, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I’ve been telling everyone for the last 2+ years that Bob Bradley is unfit to be coach of the USMNT> Klestjan keeps making bad passes, DMB hasn’t been playing at Rangers, Pearce is a liability at LB and rarely plays for a Bundesliga second level team, Guzan doesn’t play much at Aston Villa….and Bradley calls this experience???? Meanwhile, Torres show us vision and accurate passing, Spector is playing in the EPL (Bunker Bob…he’s our left back,duh….), all Altidore does is score goals (hey…how about him starting…duh…) and our most talented player Adu rides the pine while Sacha with zero technical skill plays for Bunker Bob?

    Subotic gets run off by Rongen? J. Smith, L. Nguyen, etc never develop.

    Meanwhile our U-17 got their tails kicked about in Uruguay…some development (hope Renken is okay..)

    It all points to one person – Sunil Gulati – he and Bradley should never have been their positions in the 1st place. Our talents would have maximized more under Klinsmann….but that’s 2+ years too late….FIRE GULATI AND BUNKER BOB! FIRE RONGEN TOO!

  15. Ian

    March 29, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Ryan you forget the fact we scored both goals against a reserve goalkeeper who had no command of his box. Also, do you recall a match against an inferior Central American opponent………..Costa Rica does not count!…………where we played this badly under Arena?

    Props if you do. I sure don’t recall one.

  16. Ryan

    March 29, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Not surprisingly the “OMG WE SUCK” crew is coming out again.

    There’s a huge difference between being disappointed in a result, disappointed in play, and thinking that the team is terrible. The unrealistic expectations of some mixed with the “I can’t believe we’re not Spain good” doomsday predictions of others makes the US fan base a hard group to get a good handle on.

    Of course I was disappointed with the play of some people, but I’m very happy to get a point after being down 2-0 in the 75th minute. Torres looked great out there I thought and needs to be our go to central mid when we’re playing on the road against Latin American opponents. He’s so used to playing against that style of player in a hostile environment that it makes a big difference for the team how he is able to play calm and under control unlike Sacha.

  17. Jeff

    March 29, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Orozco needs to be called, he plays in a decent leauge/club. Get him minutes and groom him toward the future.
    Torres played well, much better then Sacha.
    Personally, I think Maurice Edu could play central defender if needed, but never ahead of Demert, Orozco, Marshall. All three need there chance.
    Beasley was missing on offense, he did work hard on defense though.
    Pearce has played Middle left wing for his club, why not try for the national team. And Spector, in the back. Parkhurst too. He could do okay.
    There are options to “fix or make the national team better”, but bradley needs to step and try them. Boca at left-back? Marshall-Gooch central defender?
    Just some thoughts.

  18. eplnfl

    March 29, 2009 at 10:04 am


    You are right Frankie is special the only one at times that seemed to care until Altidore came on. Really, who can say that they have seen a game in which Hejduk did not give his all.

    Guzan really should be credited with a good effort. He has a lot to learn as his club manager knows but he has the talent to be number one and showed it last night. For Brad Guzan an excellent learning experience when his defense was not there a lot and there was no offense for 70 minutes.

  19. Ian

    March 29, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Here are my grades:

    Guzan C
    Heydude B
    Califf C-
    Boca D
    Pearce F
    Kljestan F
    Bradley F
    Dempsey C-
    Donovan C
    Beasley D
    Ching D-

    Torres A
    Jozy B-
    Edu INC

    B. Bradley F

    Even during the Arena and Sampson years the US was never so totally unprepared to play in a critical qualifier. We’ve never been this bad yet never had so much talent where we can mask the technical and tactical deficiencies and get a luck draw. Oh yeah, three Salvadorian players getting hurt including the goalie did not hurt our cause either.

    We were pathetic. No tactics no spacing, guys bunching up and tripping over one another in the midfield. Awful.

    Miami FC, nice statement. The nicest thing about the night.

  20. Roger

    March 29, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Kartik, I understand you must maintain some access to the national team to get us some of these fantastic practice reports and interviews, but seriously buddy, this is the least critical you’ve EVER been of the team.

    While you make some good points, I think you miss the most important one.


  21. Lee (not the other one)

    March 29, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Frankie is a special warrior. Jozy is going to be a great of US Soccer and Torres, man I’m glad you choose to play for us rather than Mexico.

    But the rest of this team was terrible. Landon and Dempsey give effort, the other guys don’t. Kljestan is too slow and nonathletic to play at serious international level. But he is for Bradley what Richie Williams was for Arena. The slow central midfielder who played for the coach in MLS.

    Heath Pearce? As bad as he appeared he’d look better if Bocanergra were in the right positions regularly. Honestly, I believe if Onyewu is hurt in the World Cup we’ll concede like 3 goals a game. In 1998 we conceded five goals in the entire tournament and yet finished in last place overall. Can you imagine how much of a laughing stock we will be worldwide if we go to South Africa with this team?

  22. Travis

    March 29, 2009 at 9:07 am

    The Miami FC signs were about the only thing to enjoy about this match. I agree, good ad placement and maybe now some of the writers and fans who think MLS is the only game in town will understand USL backed by Traffic Sports and UMBRO have a lot of cards to play and the most successful teams in CONCACAF from the area in Montreal and the Islanders.

    Now to what can only be described as a disgrace of a game. Bradley set his team up in a flat 4-4-2. Donovan played forward and thus didn’t see as much of the ball as he should. Dempsey played out wide which meant he did not see enough of the ball. Kljestan and Bradley in the middle don’t yet have the technical skills or the soccer IQ to hold the ball and patiently create adequate service for the wide players or forwards.

    The defenders where horrible. Guzan barely passable, while Beasley and Ching continue to prove they are only international caliber players when the face CONCACAF minnows on US soil. If we take this team to the World Cup we are going to get smoked. Jose Torres, Jozy, Freddy, and Charlie Davies need to be worked in NOW! Marvell Wynne also. Frankie has played left back before: I’d move him to the left and give Heath Pearce a one way ticket to Siberia.

    Changes need to be made. Changes must be made or we will be worse than 2006 and 1998 in the next World Cup.

  23. Toronto Football Club

    March 29, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Joseph: You’re obviously an American and you enjoy the unfair advantage you have over the lesser populated C.A. countries. It is unfair. This “national pride” thing you speak of is nothing more than brainwashing. It’s unfortunate that these smaller countries buy into that notion and, as a result, are weak powers, football included.

    India doesn’t care about football, they care about cricket. Does their population help their national cricket team? Absolutely. So yes, numbers do matter. China competed well in the 2008 Olympics because of its size. The USSR and USA were always at the top mainly, not solely, because of their populations. Get a clue, man.

    Ever heard of the phrase “divide and conquer”? Obviously you support America and want to keep the other regions divided into smaller countries so the USA can continue to rule. I would like to see more of a balance. Unfortunately, there won’t be and the USA may dominate football in addition to basketball and Gridiron. I don’t blame America, I blame the other countries for not doing the right thing and uniting.

  24. joseph oaster

    March 29, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I was at a dinner party and could not watch the game live but will watch it late. This was a tough one ratings wise I bet because of all the basketball games on and the like. I was looking for the score on my phone during the party and when my wife asking what I was looking up and told her the US MNT score, she was shocked that I was not looking up the NCAA scores.

    I am just glad the US was able to come back and grab a point. It takes real heart to come back from that deficit. No matter what a point is a point. The number one goalie was not there. The US could have packed in when down 0-2 but sucked it up. Maybe it was not a well played game but, it still keeps them up to of the group. They need to win the group outright to have any cred going into 2010 anyway.

    Central America countries merging might be the silliest thing I have read in a while. That is like some of Benelux countries merging or countries in Africa merging. Very silly. The US will win this group and is the dominate power. Some confederations just have bigger drawing.

    China and India each have over 1 billion people and how are there national teams doing. It is not about numbers. Liecthenstein has 33000 people. Faroe Islands has like 46000 people yet still field team and get their buts handed to them. No one is calling for them to merge. It is about national pride.


  25. eplnfl

    March 29, 2009 at 8:15 am

    No, I woke up and do not feel any better about. It may have to do with the 4 inches of snow on the ground here in Chicago. Yes for those who think MLS should play in the spring! lol! Bad idea, we need a summer only league.

  26. Central America needs to unite or join Mexico

    March 29, 2009 at 6:51 am

    You, know, what does it say when a nation of 300 million people get drawn by a nation of a much less population? It’s so not fair. Central America needs to get its head out of its ass and unite to form one country. Or become a part of Mexico. How the hell do these Central American countries expect to win the World Cup if they have such a small number of footballers to choose from? The only reason the USA is a CONCACAF power is because of its population size. With so many more footballers to choose from, you’re bound to find better players. It’s simple math. A higher number creates better odds.

    Imagine if the 50 States were cut up into 4 distinct nations. Then do you think the USA would defeat Mexico? They would not.

    Here’s hoping the leaders in Central America do what’s right and unite to form one entity. Otherwise, they will always get stomped on.

    So much for criticism of Don Garber for scheduling games simultaneously with the USMNT. The turnout for his league last night was good. So he made the right decision. Those who nay-said him have to eat your words. Now if he’d only now change the name of his league…

    The Miami Football Club signs were pretty funny. But, with what was probably the only opportunity to reach the audience it did, Traffic should have done more with the signs. Put the date of Miami FC’s 1st US Open match on there as well. Or say that its league’s ConcaChampions representatives lasted longer than the other American league’s entrants. If the writing is small, trust me, the TV viewer will go up to the TV to read it.

    Is it me, or does Frankie Hejduk look like Woody Woodpecker? Or a ferret.

  27. Soccer Guru

    March 29, 2009 at 1:39 am

    ok you Sacha coolaide drinkers u happy?

    Game took dramatic turn as soon as Torres came in. No coinicidence game
    picked up when he came in.

    You MLS kool aid drinkers can stop now. Sacha is a typical MLS player who excels when nothing is on the line and crumbles when something is at atake in a tough atmosphere.

    two high pressure games for Sacha, two duds. Time to pencil Torres in.

    Bradley needs to stop playing favorites like Arena. Beasley clearly out of form like the last world cup but he still gets the start. Same for Bocanegra.

  28. Zen Guru

    March 29, 2009 at 1:37 am

    How horrible are we?

    Bocanegra is an donkey with no technical skill.

    Pearce is horrible!

    Sacha sucks!

    MLS sucks!

    USL sucks!

    The sky is falling!

    Please people chill out.

    Do you people not realize we created about 20 chances in 20 minutes at the end. We were dominating the game at the end. In a World Cup their are no away games! The way we took control late with Jozy, Torres and Frankie shows we can play with anyone when we are into it.

    Where I do agree is with the tactics by Bradley. But once the changes were made and we had some emotion we played great soccer. This was a good night. We were really tested in a tough place and scored two great goals to comeback.

    So much to look forward to, and I cannot stand this negative B/S.

  29. Louis

    March 29, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Maybe we are simply not good enough outside of CONCACAF.

    We aren’t disciplined enough to play well on the road. Where are the tactics?

    Do you think this team can actually get a result in South Africa? I don’t.

  30. AL

    March 29, 2009 at 1:01 am


    Bradley must be fired. The worst tactics I’ve ever seen in years of watching soccer.

    The effort, the hustle was there. But guys were pressing early. When the game going against us early he made no changes. NONE!

    He hung our guys out to dry. The spacing was awful in the beginning and the gaps at the back you could drive a truck through and we didn’t close down anyone with our defenders bunching up.



  31. Liverpool John

    March 29, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Kartik- Altidore is the man!

    The rest of the team should just watch him play and learn. They have issues.

  32. JRT

    March 29, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Et Tu Kartik?

    Once a great analyst of the national team on CSRN with Denholm this post indicates you are now in the tank for the USSF.

    How exactly is getting a point off the 106th ranked team in the world a great result. Your initial paragraph as Mooch says is so sappy it’s tough to take the rest of the post seriously.

    Please remove this impostor and bring back the real Kartik.

  33. Mooch

    March 29, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Kartik, sappy article. Do you realize how bad El Salvador is? How can we be so unprepared to play. Any justification of how good CONCACAF is doesn’t cut it with me. Jozy was great but the rest of the team and Bradley have some soul searching to do.

  34. Jedediah

    March 28, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    A road point is a road point, but it shouldn’t have to take the introduction of Altidore to get the US properly motivated.

  35. eplnfl

    March 28, 2009 at 11:35 pm


    Why will I go to bed unsettled over this one. All of hat you say is true but this game comes down to me that a more powerful and skilled US team was out hustled for most of the match. Why the US could not turn it on earlier seems unexplainable to me.

    One may say the US is undefeated and on top of the group but we were close to laying one of the bigger eggs of all time!

    Altidore was a breath of fresh air and I say start him against T&T. Many of the European based players seemed to be effected by the jet lagged we spoke about earlier. All in all not a good night but not a bad one either.

    Maybe I’ll feel better about this in the morning. The T&T game becomes a must win!

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