Going into half time, it appeared that El Salvador had some momentum, scoring a penalty to cut the USA's lead in half at 2-1. Then El Salvador came out flying to start the second half, and an equalizer was looming.
But the USA weathered the attack, then started to counter, scoring three goals in the second half en route to a 5-1 quarterfinal blowout of El Salvador.
Five Americans found the scoresheet - Clarence Goodson, Joe Corona, Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan and Mix Diskerud as the US eventually ran away with a game that in the first half looked like it might get ugly.
The US opened the scoring in the 21st minute following a short corner kick, Michael Parkhurst played a ball over the top to Donovan on the right side. Donovan then centered a pass that found Goodson wide open at the top of the six yard box. Minutes later in the 29th, several short passes from the USA eventually came to Joe Corona, who used a hesitation to fool the defense and fired home from the top of the penalty area.
Then, El Salvador began looking to get back into the match and that meant Rodolfo Zelaya was going to have to create some magic. He nearly set up an equalizer at 1-1 in the 26th minute, when he found Mark Blanco in the box only to have US keeper Nick Rimando (4 saves) make a spectacular double save on Blanco's initial shot and Darwin Ceren's effort on the rebound.
But nearing halftime, Zelaya knifed through the top of the US box, avoiding several defenders only to be taken down by DaMarcus Beasley for a penalty. Zelaya, who has impressed many during this tournament, added a bit of cheek to his penalty, chipping the ball down the middle for the 2-1 halftime score.
After the break, El Salvador made two changes, bringing on Rafael Burgos and Kevin Santamaria, adding more attacking threat that almost had an immediate impact as Rimando was called in to action again to save Ceren's 46th minute shot. El Salvador would pressure the US in the early minutes of the second half before the USA settled down and began to fight back.
At the hour mark, with the USA about to take a corner, Jurgen Klinsmann went to his bench, bringing on Eddie Johnson for Chris Wondolowski. Johnson jogged onto the field and seconds into his shift had headed home the US' third goal of the match, Donovan providing the assist.
The United States continued to press for more goals, squandering several good chances before Johnson flicked a header over the top for Donovan, who rounded the keeper in the open field and slotted home his third goal of the tournament. Mix Diskerud would cap off the scoring in the 84th, heading home a Donovan cross past El Salvador keeper Dagoberto Portillo. Despite allowing 5 goals, it was Portillo's 9 saves that kept El Salvador in the game and prevented the rout from starting earlier.
For Donovan, it was another huge game, with a goal and three assists to add to his US team records. Diskerud, who became cap tied to the US during this tournament, scored his first international goal.
The USA would face the winner of Costa Rica-Honduras, who would play a very physical contest from Baltimore, MD. In a game featuring a combined 39 fouls, 5 yellow cards and 25 total shots (only 6 on goal), it was a match that had low scoring written all over it.
In the 2nd minute, Alvaro Saborio pushed an early chance wide of an open net, beginning what would be a very frustrating day for the Costa Rican attack. Costa Rica, despite owning 66% of the possession and out tackling Honduras 25-9 according to ESPN FC, could not generate consistency in the shots, settling for a lot of long range strikes out side the area.
In the 49th minute, it was former DC United man Andy Najar to headed home an Alexander Lopez cross to open the scoring. It was one of only two shots Honduras would have on target for the match.
For the remainder of the half, it was the Honduran defense, led by captain and defender Osman Chavez and keeper Donis Escober. While Escober was only called on to make four saves, he had to repeatedly control his area and organize his defense to shut down the strong Costa Rican attack. The Ticos would end the tournament failing to score in three straight matches, the lone goal against Belize an own goal by Dalton Eiley.
For the USA and Honduras, they will meet in the first semifinal in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, TX on Wednesday July 24th. That will be followed by Panama and Mexico, who won their quarterfinals yesterday. The winners of the two semifinals will meet in the final next Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL.