By FRANCO PANIZO
The United States national team dominated El Salvador in its friendly match at Raymond James Stadium on Wednesday night, but it needed late goals from Brian Ching and Sacha Kljestan to walk away with a 2-1 victory.
After a scoreless first half, El Salvador jumped out in front at the hour mark, when U.S. right back Brad Evans headed the ball into the path of forward Rudis Corrales, who rolled a shot past a helpless Nick Rimando.
The U.S. responded 16 minutes later on a goal from Ching, who came on at halftime for Conor Casey. Left back Heath Pearce made a run down the flank, and unleashed a beauty of a cross that Ching headed home powerfully to pull the score level.
"That's what I do, I get on the end of crosses and try to make good runs in the box," said Ching of his eleventh career goal for the U.S. "I knew (Pearce) was going to get the ball across so I just tried to put myself in a good position."
The goal made up for numerous missed opportunities by the American attack, which was suffering from a combination of woeful finishing and great saves by El Salvador goalkeeper Miguel Montes.
"We had a a lot of chances and their goalie made some big saves," said Pearce. "Had those chances gone our way the game could have maybe opened up a bit more for us."
Ching's header opened up the game in favor of the U.S., as El Salvador found itself reeling following the equalizer. Los Cuscatlecos continuously gave up possession cheaply and allowed the Americans decent looks on goal, which contributed to the 18-3 shot difference in favor of the U.S.
It was just three minutes after the goal that midfielder Robbie Rogers could have put the U.S. in front, but Rogers elected to shoot instead of pass from close range, and the shot went well wide.
The Americans had another pair of clear opportunities in the following moments, but failed to capitalize on them as well. Forward Jeff Cunningham setup Ching with a lofted cross in the 80th minute, but Montes made one of his seven saves on the play, and nine minutes later midfielder Eddie Gaven failed to score from close-range after being released one-on-one by a pass from Ching.
Just when the game looked to be headed for a 1-1 result, Kljestan stripped the ball away from Salvadoran defender Marvin Gonzalez, and played a give-and-go with Ching before finishing from close range with his left foot in the 92nd minute.
"They were playing around with the ball in the back a lot tonight," said Kljestan. "The guy had his head down and he wouldn't see me coming from his blindside, and I just picked his pocket and Ching played a good ball back."
The 2-1 result mirrors the United States' last game against El Salvador, when goals from Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore helped the U.S. to a comeback victory in a home World Cup qualifier in Salt Lake City in September 2009.
The United States will now turn its focus towards its March 3 friendly against the Netherlands in Amsterdam.
What do you think of the result? Who were you impressed by? Do you see Kljestan and Ching getting called up for the Netherlands friendly?
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