USA Use 1st-Half Goals to Beat El Salvador, Advance to 2017 Gold Cup Semifinals

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2017

United States' Eric Lichaj (15) reacts after kicking a goal during a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal soccer match against El Salvador in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The United States men's national team advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 Gold Cup thanks to a 2-0 win over El Salvador on Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Manager Bruce Arena made several notable additions to upgrade the attack heading into the knockout stage, although it was defenders Omar Gonzalez and Eric Lichaj who scored the first-half goals that made the difference.

The United States will now take on Costa Rica in the semifinals.

Despite the final score, there were a lot of nervous moments for the United States. The back line was responsible for two goals, but several key mistakes allowed for excellent chances for El Salvador that they just couldn't finish.

Goalie Tim Howard, who was one of the additions for the knockout round, made a big impact right from the start:

His play was a major reason the match ended in a shutout.

The defensive showing specifically left a lot of questions:

Meanwhile, the offense was almost nowhere to be seen early for the Americans. With the exception of a questionable offside call on Gyasi Zardes, they lacked legitimate chances in the first half-hour of the match.

That finally changed with two goals in a span of six minutes right before halftime. Gonzalez scored off a Michael Bradley free kick, while Clint Dempsey found a streaking Lichaj for the second goal.

It was the first international goal for Lichaj, although Paul Carr of ESPN provided an interesting note about Gonzalez:

After a sloppy start to the match, the United States suddenly were up 2-0 at halftime.

Rahul Vaidyanath of the Epoch Times summed up the early action:

The second half featured more mistakes from the American back line, but El Salvador couldn't take advantage.

Although the hosts weren't aggressive enough to score again, they maintained control to secure a two-goal win in a match where they didn't look their best.

Bradley, Paul Arriola and Darlington Nagbe had their moments, but there was otherwise a lot left to be desired from the tournament favorites.

The United States now faces Costa Rica in the semifinals Saturday at 9 p.m. ET in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Ticos used a Panama own goal to advance to the quarterfinals with a 1-0 win Wednesday.