The U.S. Men's National Team came from behind against El Salvador for the third consecutive time with a 2-1 victory in front of a crowd of 21,737 fans Wednesday evening at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
El Salvador took the lead in the 59th minute through a Rudi Corrales goal, but halftime substitute Brian Ching equalized in the 75th minute with a well-struck header. Ching then turned provider in stoppage time as he played a one-two with Sacha Kljestan to put the midfielder through on goal and snatch the win with a clinical finish.
Crew midfielders Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven both earned caps in the match, Rogers starting and going the first 86 minutes and Gaven coming on at halftime and playing the entire second stanza.
The U.S. also came from behind to win or tie against El Salvador in their last two meetings during the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying, drawing 2-2 last March in San Salvador after falling behind by two goals and then bouncing back after allowing an early first half goal to win 2-1 on Sept. 5, 2009 in Sandy, Utah.
The U.S. will next travel to Amsterdam where they will take on the third-ranked Netherlands at Amsterdam ArenA on March 3 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The match will be televised live on ESPN2 and Galavision and fans can follow via ussoccer.com's MatchTracker.
"Overall, there were some good efforts and we saw some very positive things on the field tonight," said U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bob Bradley. "We went down but continued to push to get a win, and when you can come away with a result from a good play at the end that's very positive."
The falling rain markedly affected the opening stages of the match as both teams seemed to struggle getting used to the ball movement on the field. The first 20 minutes saw both teams trying to muster attacks and establish a rhythm without much success, aside from an ambitious fourth-minute shot by Osael Romero which U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando smothered as it skipped to the far post.
The tempo began to change when an El Salvador cross from the left was blocked by Brad Evans but skipped directly into the path of Juan Carlos Moscoso. The midfielder was able to collect the ball in a dangerous spot at the top of the area but slipped as he attempted to shoot.
The incident sparked both teams into life and play opened up. The U.S. created some sustained pressure and were almost rewarded when Robbie Findley broke behind the defense on the right flank. He cut a square ball inside to the trailing Kljestan who took a touch and shot on frame but the ball was deflected behind by the Salvadorian defense.
Kljestan was again on the end of a nice U.S. attack in the 31st minute when Conor Casey received the ball in space on the left. He advanced toward his defender and laid off a ball to the inside to a cutting Kljestan who hit a one-time shot low to the 'keeper's left. Miguel Montes proved equal to the task and palmed the ball around the post to give the U.S. a corner.
The U.S. was now piling on the pressure in search of the opener as they held possession around the El Salvador area. After a string of quick passes in the 32nd minute, Heath Pearce beat his man to the endline and lifted a cross to the far post where Rogers waited unmarked. However, Rogers' downward header could only find the leg of an onrushing defender and the ball deflected out for another U.S. corner.
The first half would end with another close chance when Brad Davis cut in from the left in the 40th minute but had his shot blocked inside the area. The rebound spun out to Kljestan who side footed a low show destined for the back of the net until goalkeeper Montes again intervened to push the shot around the post.
With Bradley making two changes at halftime by sending Ching on for Casey and Gaven on for Davis, the U.S. came out attacking with purpose. Findley saw a half chance tipped around the post by Montes and Rogers and Ching could not connect after the winger beat his man and centered for Ching inside the six.
The U.S. continued their pressure and scoring the first goal seemed to be only a matter of time. However, it would be El Salvador who would seize the advantage in the 59th minute.
A long ball out of the center of the field arrived on the left flank and was misplayed by Evans. Corrales took advantage to cut in behind the defense and got to the ball before the onrushing Rimando. He slid the ball inside the far post and gave Los Cuscatlecos the 1-0 lead against the run of play.
The U.S. responded with a pair of chances just moments later as Ching saw a snap header go agonizingly wide of the far post after a Pearce cross from the left in the 61st minute. Seconds later, Findley found himself running at the last defender at the top of the box but was barely tripped up before he could get a shot off.
Rogers then served in a series of three free kicks that each could have been converted for the equalizer. The 68th minute saw Evans lose his marker and head wide from 12 yards moments after Jeff Cunningham had come on for Findley. Two minutes later, Ching was on the end of another Rogers free kick from the left but Montes smothered his downward header at his feet. The third free kick skipped through three U.S. attackers at the far post only needing a touch to turn it toward goal.
The equalizer would finally come in the 75th minute after a great effort from Pearce on the left sideline. He beat his marker, making just enough room to get off an inch perfect cross to Ching who had ghosted in behind the defense and was alone at the edge of the six yard box. This time he made no mistake and buried his header at the near post past Montes, who got a hand to the ball but failed to keep it out of the goal.
Rogers wasted a golden opportunity in the 78th minute to take the lead when he beat his man on the dribble and advanced into the box deciding to unleash a drive the sailed wide of the goal instead of opting to pass to Gaven at the far post.
Dax McCarty entered the fray on the 79th minute replacing Kyle Beckerman in the center of the park. Two minutes later, Rogers almost made amends by unleashing a searing drive from the top of the 18 that rattled the woodwork as Montes could only watch rooted to the spot. It would prove to be his last input of the match as Rogers was replaced by Geoff Cameron in the 86th minute, giving the Houston Dynamo midfielder his first cap with the MNT.
As the match entered stoppage time, a draw seemed certain even though the U.S. still looked for a way to unlock the El Salvador defense. Kljestan provided the heroics in the second minute of stoppage time when he dispossessed Marvin González after a rather nonchalant pass from Montes. Kljestan picked up the ball in the center of the field 25 yards from goal and played a ball ahead to Ching. The forward returned the ball with a neat pass right into the path of Kljestan who slotted the ball behind Montes from eight yards to seal the win.
It was Kljestan's fourth international goal and his first since his debut hat trick against Sweden on Jan. 24, 2009, at The Home Depot Center.
Jonathan Bornstein, who went 90 minutes in central defense, wore the captain's armband for the first time with the Men's National Team.