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USMNT vs El Salvador: What We Learned

The USA is on the semi-finals after a 2-0 win over El Salvador where we saw some positives and some negatives.

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup-USA  at El Salvador Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The United States probably got the easiest matchup in the Gold Cup quarterfinals, and they cashed that in for a 2-0 win and a trip to the semi-finals. It definitely wasn’t the prettiest game (40 fouls were called on the two teams), but they managed to get the two goals in the final five minutes before half time from Omar Gonzalez and Eric Lichaj. Without further adieu, here are the things we learned from Wednesday night’s match.

The best offense is a good defense???

The USA got two goals from defenders tonight, meaning that four of their nine goals on the tournament have been scored by defenders. This means that they defenders are doing a solid job getting up on offense, and the free kicks are going well. This is a good thing to bring into the semis and hopefully the finals. If they rest of the team can score a few more goals, we could have a real high goal total at the end of this thing. Unfortunately, more to come on the defense next.

The defense didn’t exactly “defend”

This proved to be yet another game where the opposition seemed to have way too many chances. There is more than 100 spots between El Salvador and the USA in the FIFA World Rankings, so why are they getting so many dangerous chances on goal? Realistically, the offenses the back four sees at the club levels are probably better than El Salvador’s (we are talking English Championship, Liga MX, and MLS here). I wouldn’t think that players on Costa Rica or (probably) Mexico are really going to miss these chances. Lichaj made a very bad error in the first few minutes that should have ended up as a goal against. Then Morrow struggled a bit under the pressure in the second half. Hedges made a number of mistakes that will probably land him on the bench Saturday. Gonzalez probably looked the best of the back four, but he wasn’t perfect by any means. The back line needs to be better if we are going to stand a chance of winning this tournament.

Nagbe is good at this soccer thing

If there is one thing we have learned to expect from Darlington Nagbe, it’s that he won’t turn the ball over. This pretty much proved to be true Wednesday night. He was forced to start in the center of the park for the first time for the USMNT instead of the wing. He was very good in possession and picked his passes well. He even showed a some flashes of skill a few times throughout the game. The only real “mistake” he made was getting a yellow card that was rather undeserved. Nagbe’s stock seems to be constantly on the rise the more he plays for the USMNT.

CONCACAF reffing remains a (not so funny) joke

Two USA players got bit. Another one was the victim of a late challenge with studs up. Another one got punched. Plus, there were a number of off the ball fouls and hard tackles on the ball. Reading that, you would think El Salvador was luck they didn’t have to forfeit the game due to too many red cards. In actuality, they finished with 11 guys on the field. I may have only reached grade eight certification as a USSF referee, but I’m pretty sure I listed at least four red card offense at the start of this paragraph. In all reality, the poor referee work on this game made it pretty hard to watch, and I couldn’t help but feel like the USA wouldn’t get out of it healthy. Add on the poor offsides call on the Zardes goal and I’m pretty confident we could find better refs somewhere in the crowd.