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CONCACAF Gold Cup Preview: USA, El Salvador battle for semi-final spot

USA will be looking to take another step towards their fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup crown when they face El Salvador in the last eight on Sunday.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s men have yet to lose a game in this year’s competition and go into the clash with Agustin Castillo’s side as heavy favourites.

El Salvador qualified for the last eight as one of the two best third-place sides and will be largely unfancied against a USA team that boasts the tournament’s top scorer in Chris Wondolowski.

San Jose forward Wondolowski has five goals to his name, but El Salvador have their own talisman in the form of attacker Rodolfo Zelaya, who has netted three times so far in the competition.

Despite USA’s 100 per cent record, which was ensured by Brek Shea’s late winner against Costa Rica, Klinsmann has opted to make four changes to his squad ahead of the meeting at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore.

Two of the changes have been enforced because of injury, with defender Oguchi Onyewu continuing to feel the effects of an ankle sprain picked up in the 4-1 win over Belize on July 13, and attacker Herculez Gomez struggling with a knee problem.

Defender Corey Ashe and forward Jack McInerney also depart, with Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson coming in as USA set their sights on the semi-finals.

El Salvador have endured a frenetic tournament; they surrendered a 2-1 lead and were left to settle for a point in their opening Group B match with Trinidad and Tobago, and lost 1-0 to Honduras in their second outing.

However, they secured their qualification for the quarter-finals by virtue of a slender win over Haiti on Tuesday, Zelaya scoring in the 76th minute.

Castillo’s men will know that history is against them heading into Sunday’s encounter as they have not gone further than the quarter-finals under the competition’s current guise, and will need to produce their best performance of the tournament if they are to change that record.

Fri 19 Jul, 2013
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