clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

USA vs. El Salvador, 2023 CONCACAF Nations League: Scouting El Salvador

The USMNT looks to advance to the Finals.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Mexico v El Salvador - Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team opened the international window with a 7-1 victory over Grenada, but the job is not over. The CONCACAF Nations League’s League A, Group D is drawing to a close with a fixture that will determine first place. Advancement to June’s finals can only be secured with a win or a draw against El Salvador. The match is set for Exploria Stadium, a 25,500-seat arena in Orlando, Florida that has become one of the key domestic venues for international soccer.

This is the 28th all-time meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding a 19-1-7 advantage, most recently playing to a 1-1 draw last June. Ranked 74th internationally by FIFA, El Salvador is looking to step forward during the 2026 World Cup cycle following a promising campaign that resulted in a seventh-place finish in the Octagonal. La Selecta are still in contention to advance to the Nations League Finals with a 1-0-2 record and opened the window with a 1-0 friendly loss to rivals Honduras.

Hugo Pérez was initially appointed to lead the Under-23 team during Olympic qualifying but was put in charge of the senior squad a few months later. The 59-year-old earned 73 caps for the United States and competed at the 1994 World Cup. He was in discussions to take over the Houston Dynamo, a position that went to Major League Soccer mainstay Ben Olsen.

Pérez named a 22-player roster with seven reserves for the international window. Six of the call-ups compete in the United States at various levels of the pyramid. Notable past inclusions – such as Ronald Rodríguez, Nelson Bonilla, Darwin Cerén, and Alexander Larín – are absent from the squad.


GOALKEEPERS (2): Mario González (FC Alliance), Thomas Romero (Toronto FC)

DEFENDERS (8): Bryan Tanacas (Oakland Roots SC), Nelson Blanco (North Carolina FC), Eriq Zavaleta (LA Galaxy), Roberto Domínguez (CD FAS), Rudy Clavel (CD FAS), Rómulo Villalobos (Dragon CD), Alex Roldán (Seattle Sounders FC), William Canales (FC Alliance)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Bryan Landaverde (CD FAS), Melvin Cartagena (CD Eagle), Enrico Dueñas Hernández (FC Cartagena B), Christian Martínez (AD San ​​Carlos), Leonardo Menjívar (AD Chalatenango), Narciso Orellana (FC Alliance)

FORWARDS (6): Cristian Gil (CD FAS), Brayan Gil (Sports Tolima), Jairo Henríquez (Colorado Springs Switchbacks), Mayer Gil (Oil Alliance), Juan Carlos Argueta (Jocoro FC), Kevin Reyes (CD FAS)


Pérez typically deploys a 4-3-3 formation and looks to play vertically with quick-strike long passes. The wingers can cut inside but tend to hug the touchline, spreading out the opposing defense to create more space for centering passes. The manager has been looking to cut down on “childish mistakes,” believing that the players can struggle with “concentration when making a decision.”

Projected El Salvador Starting XI (via

Mario González seized the number-one goalkeeper role almost immediately upon being called in for World Cup qualification in June of 2021 and has yet to surrender his standing. The 25-year-old competes with Alianza F.C. in the domestic Primera División, claiming three titles during his tenure. He maintains a steady countenance when facing opportunities from close range and steers away rebounds into safe areas. At 6’ even, his style is more of a shot-stopper than box controller, and his reflexes, athleticism, and wingspan are more than adequate to cover all four corners of the net.

Eriq Zavaleta started four of the final five matches during the recent World Cup qualifying cycle and should remain a key figure for the program. The LA Galaxy centre-back is strong in the tackle and has little issue going nose-to-nose with physical strikers. However, a lack of on-field experience over the past few seasons may eventually manifest in rust-induced errors. His partner is likely to be Roberto Dominguez of FAS, another physical presence and active target on set pieces. He is comfortable and calm with the ball, unbothered by pressure when in possession.

California-born Alex Roldán is likely to line up at left back, providing an aggressive presence with frequent and accurate passing. He fills the stat sheet with several tackles, interceptions, and shot blocks every match. On the other side of the formation is Bryan Tamacas of Oakland Roots SC, another player who pushes deep into the final third. Operating almost as a winger, his pressure and incisive crossing will be essential if El Salvador is going to secure three points. North Carolina FC’s Nelson Blanco could also land a start, possessing a knack for last-ditch challenges and emergency clearances.

Narcisco Orellana occupies one of the deeper midfielder roles, calmly advancing the ball with long passes or slaloming dribbling runs. He thrives when defending in trafficked areas, darting into danger and coming away with possession. Six years after making his senior international debut, CD FAS’ Bryan Landaverde returned to the program and took on key responsibilities during World Cup qualifying and the Nations League. The pig farmer known to teammates as Chinchulín swarms passing lanes and serves as a constant pressure valve during the build-up. The advanced position should feature Enrico Dueñas, a former Netherlands youth international who currently competes with the FC Cartagena reserves. The 22-year-old is elusive with his twists and turns, looking for the right moment to spring a forward into the box.

Wide attacker Jairo Henríquez is one of the squad’s veterans and scored five goals last season for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks in the USL Championship. The 29-year-old has a fast first touch to blow past the opponent and will take every opportunity to shoot from distance, while also being comfortable hitting crosses from the wing and defending. On the opposite side of the formation is Keven Reyes, who registered an assist and displayed nimble footwork in the previous fixture against the USMNT. He covers the length of the field, serving as equal parts shuttler, box-to-box, and attacker, providing answers to every tactical question.

With stalwart veteran Nelson Bonilla “not part of [the] plan,” El Salvador will have to rely on Cristian Gil, a relative neophyte at the international level. The CD FAS striker brings a relentless electricity, constantly working the back line to find an angle. With the ball, he uses his speed to cut inside, typically from the left, and move directly into the box. His close-range finishing has a touch of fortune with the right bounces and deflections rolling in his favor. Too pacey and creative to be dubbed a poacher, much of his best work is done within the goal area.

Despite having registered a single victory in the all-time series, El Salvador tends to provide a challenging matchup. Pérez appears to have the program headed in the right direction with a real shot at qualification for the 2026 World Cup. However, the USMNT is bringing close to a full-strength roster and should be able to dictate the pace of proceedings.

The match is scheduled for Monday, March 27th at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 4:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include TNT, Universo, Peacock, and FUBO TV (free trial).