The USMNT has knocked El Salvador out of the Gold Cup twice before in the knockout round, and the expectation is that this will be the third. The notion that playing the inexperienced initial squad throughout the tournament would have been better for the U.S.as a program because of the experience it would have afforded the likes of Dom Dwyer and Kelyn Rowe is quaint and short-sighted. A sizeable player pool coming right off the top of his head seemed to validate suspicions: the U.S. was in a very good place - maybe the best place ever.
There's risk in that, of course, as the United States and Mexico can attest to.
U.S. players celebrate after scoring a goal in a group-sealing win against Nicaragua at the Gold Cup. I don't think there are any favorites.
Arena added that based on the way El Salvador played during the group stage, he expects them to attack the U.S. and play with an open style.
The final of the tournament takes place in Santa Clara on July 26.
It should also be an attraction for the Union's scouts, as well as the rest of Major League Soccer.
Less credible is the idea Honduras could pull it off.
Arena made six changes to his 23-player roster for the quarterfinals, adding first-team regulars Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey - all starters in the 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago last month - along with FC Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzalez whom FIFA just cleared to play for the USA. The question now: Is this cause for alarm or just a hurdle to be dealt with?
However, Roldan didn't exactly set the world on fire, failing to impress in the one match in which he competed.
The United States takes on El Salvador tomorrow, Wednesday, July 19 at 9:00 PM EST. Losing only to Mexico in the tournament, El Salvador has the firepower to dismantle the defense of USA. Garcia is a deeper sitting midfielder who hasn't scored in MLS since 2015, and Figueroa as a defender has other priorities, though he did have four shots in the scoreless draw-turned-forgeit against French Guiana. "I thought the group stage would be a great opportunity to look at some new players".
World Cup qualifying should still be the absolute priority for the United States going forward, but a Gold Cup win would only help the confidence of a nation needing a confidence boost. The Costa Rica defence must be alert to shut him down, while their attacking players will need to be inventive and incisive to apply sustained pressure to the back four. The fact the U.S. dodged Costa Rica in the quarterfinal and instead plays a weaker El Salvador might allow Arena to play another pairing in the back to evaluate what is the best tandem ahead of the tournament's most challenging teams.
It's unclear how all of these players will combine with the core members of the team.
After dominating the opening minutes, Mexico escaped two early scares by Curacao's Gino Van Kessel. While Altidore and Dempsey are still likely first choice up top for now, Dwyer is a bit of the mix of the two, showcasing the tenacity of Dempsey with the strength of Altidore.
Striker Gabriel Torres has been the main threat for Panama at the tournament so far, netting two goals.