USA vs. El Salvador, 2013 Gold Cup quarterfinals: Final score 5-1, America still awesome

Patrick McDermott

Rodolfo Zelaya and the referee tried to tread on this. Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson and Mix Diskerud did not let them tread.

For 38 minutes, the United States dominated El Salvador and appeared to be on the path to a comfortable win. Then, DaMarcus Beasley gave away a penalty, setting up a nervous spell for the U.S. that lasted until the hour mark. The fears of USMNT fans were alleviated when Eddie Johnson came off the bench and scored off a corner mere seconds after entering, expanding the U.S. lead to two goals. From there, the rout was on and the United States went on to notch a 5-1 win.

The U.S. executed multiple planned short corners early in the match before finally connecting on one of their designed routines in the 21st minute. Landon Donovan and Joe Corona played an exchange on the right flank off the corner that drew out the El Salvador defense, opening up a lane for Donovan to play a low cross. Clarence Goodson anticipated the play perfectly and poked past Dagoberto Portillo to put the United States ahead.

Joe Corona doubled the U.S. lead nine minutes later, with Donovan involved again. He played the initial ball to set up the chance to Chris Wondolowski, who laid off for Corona. Donovan's continuing run into the box opened up a lane for Corona to shoot through and he placed a low shot to Portillo's left.

Jurgen Klinsmann's team looked set to carry a comfortable 2-0 lead into halftime until Rodolfo Zelaya drew a penalty with an impressive run into the box. He squirmed past three U.S. defenders before Beasley, the last man for him to beat, decided that a shoulder charge was his best option. It was clear obstruction, the referee pointed to the spot, and Zelaya stepped up to score, cutting the U.S. lead in half.

The beginning of the first half didn't go well for the United States. Between the introduction of Kevin Santamaria, the lack of pace in the U.S. defense and what was probably a bit of a confidence boost from drawing and scoring a penalty at the end of the first half, Zelaya absolutely terrorized the USMNT for the first 15 minutes of the half. Luckily for the U.S., Jurgen Klinsmann had an answer.

Johnson came on in the 60th minute for Wondolowski and made as much of an instant impact as anyone can make. With Johnson in the game, the U.S. abandoned their old corner routine and Donovan delivered a ball into the center of the box. Johnson anticipated it perfectly, rose up above his defender and powered a perfect header to the top corner to put the U.S. up 3-1.

That goal proved to be a backbreaker for El Salvador. It seemed to suck all of the life out of them and the U.S. went on to dominate the rest of the match. They could have scored four or five more, but managed just two, with Donovan and Mikkel Diskerud rounding out the scoring.

Notes:

- That was the best game that we've seen Landon Donovan have for the United States since ... wow, I can't even remember when. I'm not sure he's had a game that good in a match that mattered, against a respectable opponent since 2011. He could have had a hat trick and five assists, and the plays he made to help advance attacks or keep possession in tight spots were incredible too. Truly a spectacular all-around performance.

- Eddie Johnson scoring 10 seconds after he ran on the pitch was awesome, and the way he scored was impressive. Crazy ups from GAM.

- OH MY GOD MIX SCORED I'M STILL MELTING.

- Shout out to Kyle Beckerman, who was quietly awesome all game. I know it's not exactly easy to tell the difference between a good and an average game for Beckerman, whose job is basically to hold and recycle possession, but he was flawless in this one. His best game in a long time.

- Nick Rimando was unbelievable. An absolute brick wall. His first half double save was probably the coolest thing I've seen in this tournament.

- There aren't a lot of negatives to pick out of a 5-1 win, so here's almost all of them in one note: Michael Parkhurst gave the ball away a lot. Clarence Goodson looked slow. DaMarcus Beasley's foul to give away the penalty was really silly. Joey Beers' goal was good, but he probably had more bad decisions and touches than he'd like.

- Here's the one negative that deserves its own note: Jose Torres spent much of his time on the pitch looking confused. His first 15 minutes were great, but then he started to drift inside a lot and leave the entire left flank to Beas. Often, he'd pick up the ball in the center circle, then look to pass left. Uh, who do you expect to be there, dude?

- I don't want to end on a negative note after such an awesome game, so I will say that America is awesome and I love America. Also, this was the best game in this tournament.

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