The U.S. men's soccer team faces a crucial qualifying match against El
Salvador Saturday night, as the Americans hold on to one of three
guaranteed spots in next year's World Cup in South Africa. The Americans need a win to solidify their place in
the final round of qualifying.
The United States is in third place in the North Central America and Caribbean group, tied with Honduras on 10 points but behind on goal differential. Mexico is fourth, just one point back while Costa Rica leads the six-team final round with 12 points.
The last time the U.S. men played El Salvador, they had to come back to tie the match 2-2 in El Salvador. Saturday's game is at Utah's Rio Tinto Stadium and the U.S. is expecting a partisan home crowd. U.S. Coach Bob Bradley said after Friday's practice that El Salvador is a tough opponent, both at home and on the road.
"It's a group of players that's been together, he said. "I think they are well coached and organized. We saw that even in a home game, you know that they had a real game plan of how they wanted to play us. And I think that's one of their strengths in every game and we would expect all of that."
U.S. forward Clint Dempsey says that he and his teammates can take nothing for granted - they want a win Saturday to solidify their chances of qualifying.
"It's always different playing home and away," he said. "It's two totally different games. So we are just trying to make the most of the games we have left. You know it's kind of our fate's in our own hands. We are trying to qualify for the World Cup, you know that's the main goal, so we are still in a good position and we know we need to get a result."
In other matches Saturday, Trinidad and Tobago visits Honduras and Costa Rica hosts Mexico. The top three finishers after the final round earn a berth to the World Cup and the fourth place finisher faces a playoff against South America's fifth place team.