By DAN KARELL
Despite missing a handful of regular starters in their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign, it was a remaining member of the Honduras squad that saved their blushes late.
Seemingly heading for a draw, holding midfielder Jorge Claros rifled home a shot in 90th minute stoppage time to earn a 1-0 victory over El Salvador at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, going top of Group B and earning a place in the knockout stages. Also in Friday’s Gold Cup action, Haitian forward Jean-Eudes Maurice scored twice as Haiti defeated Trinidad and Tobago, 2-0.
Honduras thought they had taken a lead in the 21st minute when Mario Berrios spun around his left shoulder and stunningly curling a shot into the far corner. Alas, the midfielder was flagged for being offside.
Agustin Castillo’s El Salvador side were wasteful with a number of chances, with Kevin Santamaria and Mardoqueo Henriquez sending shots well over the bar. Late in the second half of the match, Santamaria had a chance to be the hero, but his 87th minute strike from 30 yards out only found woodwork, denying El Salvador of a winner.
El Salvador were punished for wasting their chances when Claros beat the offside trap in stoppage time, collecting a pass, turning, and scoring the game-winning goal for Honduras. The goal is only the second career international goal for the 27-year-old midfielder.
After their finishing woes at Red Bull Arena last Monday, Haiti took advantage of their chances in their victory over Trinidad and Tobago.
It only took 16 minutes for Haiti to score their first. Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan Williams parried a long-range by Haitian midfielder Jeff Louis shot straight into the path of Maurice, who finished calmly with no defenders around.
Soca Warriors midfielder Keon Daniels had two chances on either side of halftime, sending the first header wide and the second one stinging off the far post, allowing Haiti to clear their lines.
In the 53rd minute, Maurice scored his second a stroke of luck. Haitian midfielder Yves Desmaret stormed down the left wing, playing in a low cross towards teammate Leonel Saint-Preux. The cross never found it’s target, but the attempted Trinidad and Tobago clearance bounced off Maurice in for a goal.
Up next in Group B, El Salvador play Haiti in a match both need to win to survive, while Honduras faces Trinidad and Tobago, both matches being played at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.