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United States 2, El Salvador 0 - US Survives Shaky Start and Dark Arts to Advance to Semis

El Salvador tried everything to keep the US from the semifinals, but two late first half goals were enough for to see the hosts advance.

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

The United States did not start their quarterfinal match against El Salvador well.

Eric Lichaj’s early back pass was nearly converted for a goal if not for the timely intervention of Tim Howard well off his line. Right before the half, it was Lichaj who made a striker’s run from fullback to double the US lead.

Omar Gonzalez opened the scoring for the USA as they were able to battle past El Salvador in a testy CONCACAF matchup that could’ve seen multiple players ejected.

El Salvador nearly took the lead in the 3rd minute as Lichaj mishit a backpass to Howard. Luckily the US keeper was alert and off his line to make a sliding clearance against a rushing Rodolfo Zelaya. The US struggled in the early part of the half but settled in and began to pepper shots at Derby Carrillo’s net.

The US breakthrough would come in the 41st via a long free kick from Michael Bradley. His beautiful cross dipped down to the top of six yard box where it was nodded goalwards by Omar Gonzalez with a defender draped all over him. Carrillo was able to react and get a piece of the ball, but not enough to keep it out of the net.

In first half stoppage time, it was Lichaj who doubled the USA’s lead after a wonderful run and finish. Clint Dempsey received the ball in the final third and found Lichaj who made a perfect back shoulder and curving run to stay onside and a textbook nutmeg/five-hole finish under Carrillo and into the back corner of the net. Lichaj’s “dead fish” sliding celebration was also something to behold.

The second half featured a lot of strange fouls, the dark arts and more unlucky El Salvador finishing. Both sides had several good chances ruined by timely blocks throughout the match but El Salvador had a few good chances that went of target particularly in the second half. El Salvador had a few key chances created from US turnovers but were only able to sky their efforts including Zelaya again off a Matt Hedges turnover midway through the second half. Of the 8 shots Los Cuscatlecos took on the evening, Tim Howard only had to make one save for the shutout. The US took 14 total shots, putting eight on target with Carrillo making six saves in the match.

Center referee Drew Fischer had a shocker, with several potential red cards going unnoticed. Henry Romero bit Jozy Altidore before a corner kick, Nelson Bonilla caught Lichaj high with his studs after a clearance and Alexander Larin struck Jordan Morris as the forward made a run into the box. The match featured five yellow cards, two of them in the first half, and none for persistent infringement despite Altidore and Dempsey being fouled three times apiece, Darlington Nagbe fouled six times before being subbed out and El Salvador’s Rodolfo Zelaya being fouled five times.

The United States will move on to face Costa Rica in the semifinals as they advanced with a 1-0 win over Panama. The other quarterfinal played before the US-El Salvador match was evenly played throughout without until an unfortunate own goal by Panama’s Anibal Godoy in the 77th minute that proved to be the deciding goal.

The USA and Costa Rica will meet on Saturday, July 22nd at 10pm Eastern in Arlington, Texas and AT&T Stadium in the first semifinal. The 2017 Gold Cup quarterfinals continue tomorrow night with Jamiaca-Canada and Mexico-Honduras. The second semifinal will be Sunday July 23rd and the Final will be next Wednesday, July 26th.