2017 Gold Cup: U.S. 2, El Salvador 0

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By JACK BELL

Gold Cup logoThe United States used two goal late in the first half to escape with a 2-0 victory over El Salvador in a quarterfinal match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

The U.S. advanced to the semifinals for the 13th time in 14 tournaments, since it was revamped in 1991, and will face Costa Rica at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., on Saturday. Costa Rica defeated Panama in the opener to the doubleheader, which drew more than 30,000 fans on a hot and steamy night.

The win was not pretty. It was not particularly impressive. But it is a win.

The U.S. nearly found itself in a hole only minutes into the match when Eric Lichaj sent a weak back pass in the direction of goalkeeper Tim Howard that was intercepted by Rodolfo Zelaya. Howard came out to thwart the goal-scoring attempt, one of several squandered in the game by Zelaya.

The American team finally jumped into the league before the end of the first half as Omar Gonzalez headed home Michael Bradley‘s free kick with about five minutes left before the interval.

The U.S. made it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time. Clint Dempsey, back with the national team after sitting out the group stage, made a nifty turn and slid a pass to the cutting Lichaj. His left-footed shot went under goalkeeper Derby Carillo for his first international goal.

El Salvador had the better of the play early in the second half, buzzing around the U.S. goal but to no avail. As it pressed, El Salvador tried its best to goad and bait the American players into confrontations, flopping to the turf and tackling late in vain appeals to the referee. At one point Henry Romero took a bite out of Jozy Altidore, but was not carded. The terms for it are: Dirty and disgusting. What’s worse, there probably will be no sanction from the pooh-bahs at CONCACAF.

In the 64th minute, a cross from the right was left to bounce by Gonzalez six yards from goal and was headed over the bar by Denis Pineda.

With the U.S. defense seemingly confused and flatfooted, U.S. Coach Bruce Arena went to his bench, but for a forward — sending on Jordan Morris for Paul Arriola. Arena made two other late changes, inserting Kellyn Acosta and Chris Pontius.